Daly Cherry-Evans cheekily thanked Queensland’s harshest critics for helping to inspire the Maroons to one of their greatest Origin triumphs.
Ridiculed as “one of the worst Queensland teams in history” by sections of the NSW media, including former Blues skipper Paul Gallen, Cherry-Evans took great delight in proving people wrong as the Maroons pulled off an Origin miracle with a 20-14 decider victory.
“On behalf of the worst ever Queensland team, thank you very much,” Cherry-Evans said after accepting the Origin shield at Suncorp Stadium.
With the Maroons blooding 14 debutants across the series a three-peat seemed almost inevitable for NSW, yet Queensland pulled off a surprise Origin I win in Adelaide and turned a huge Origin II defeat into a gutsy decider victory in front of 49,155 fans at their spiritual home.
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Cherry-Evans admitted the criticism had given his team added motivation to come out firing and continue the Maroons' stunning record in deciders played in Queensland.
“Yeah, that probably motivated us all a little bit,” Cherry-Evans said.
“Wayne gave 14 people an opportunity to play for Queensland and none weren’t deserving of that opportunity.
“But it was more than that out there tonight, we were playing for each other.”
Wally Lewis Medal winner Cameron Munster said the “worst team” jibes had helped the Maroons, but rather than pin the articles on the dressing room wall as coaches would do in the past, Wayne Bennett instead plastered a photo of the 2017 series-winning team as motivation.
“We were considered the worst team in history and lucky enough to get the series this year and lucky enough to prove the critics wrong,” Munster said.
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“We obviously heard about it in the media being the worst Maroons team that’s ever played but we actually just put a photo of the last time we won the series which was 2017 and Wayne just gave us an ultimatum - 'do you want to be those blokes in the photo or do you want to sit around and wish'.
“So we made sure we went out there tonight and were aggressive.
“We are always the underdogs and always backs against the wall. We’re just knockabout blokes that want to do the best for our state and it couldn’t be better than at Suncorp with our fans behind us.
“They were the main reason we got home tonight.”
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For a player who was once maligned in his own state after turning his back on a rich deal to join the Gold Coast Titans, Cherry-Evans has now come full circle by taking man of the match honours in Origin I and providing the calm head under pressure in the decider to help seal the series win.
“It’s a very special moment. Whether I was captain or not I just love playing for Queensland,” he said.
“I’m the lucky one who gets to call myself the captain.”