Captain Cherry-Evans to lead Queensland’s charge

Cherry-Evans and Michael Morgan both captain their clubs but are relatively inexperienced in the Origin arena when compared to the legendary players who have now departed the scene for the Maroons.

“We’ve got some really good players that have put their hand up to captain the side,” Walters said.

“We’ll make that decision tomorrow when we announce the team, as to the actual captain will be.

“It’s pretty easy to work out. It’s down to a couple of guys and those players are both in great touch.”

He may have won the race to the captain’s armband but the matter of Cherry-Evans’ fitness is still some query.

While it’s understood the star halfback is “99 per cent” confident of lacing the boots up on Wednesday week, he has not led Manly out since injuring his ankle in their round seven win over the Raiders at Lottoland.

He has been working around the clock to ensure he is fit and ready to fire when the first match of the series kicks off on June 5 at Suncorp Stadium, desperate to ensure history does not repeat.

Five years ago, Cherry-Evans returned too early from injury and played poorly in Queensland’s 6-4 loss to NSW in Origin II, ending the Maroons’ eight-year run of dominance.

Cherry-Evans’ welcome presence in the Maroons mix will stabilise a team which doesn’t look much different from the team Walters named this time last year.

Ben Hunt will start at hooker, Cameron Munster will line up at five-eighth and Kalyn Ponga will spark the Queensland attack from fullback.

The only contentious calls for Walters come on the pine.

Moses Mbye was a late withdrawal from the Wests Tigers team which lost to the Rabbitohs on Saturday night but if the game was a couple of days later, he may have played despite suffering a slight groin strain during the club’s captain’s run.

He is expected to be named on an extended bench by Walters and Tigers coach Michael Maguire declared his captain would be fit for the series opener.

“He just had a slight strain to his groin, it’s only a subtle one,” Maguire said after his team’s loss to Souths.

“If we were playing in four or five days he might have been okay but to turn around in 24 hours, he just wasn’t ready.”

Anthony Milford will also be named on an extended bench, though it’s understood Mbye is the frontrunner to play as Walters’ utility on the pine.

Joe Ofahengaue is expected to earn the final spot on the bench alongside Dylan Napa, Mbye and David Fifita.

Likely Maroons team: Kalyn Ponga, Corey Oates, Michael Morgan, Will Chambers, Dane Gagai, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans (c), Jai Arrow, Ben Hunt, Josh Papalii, Felise Kaufusi, Matt Gillett, Josh Maguire. Interchange: (three to be omitted) Moses Mbye, Dylan Napa, David Fifita, Joe Ofahengaue, Jarrod Wallace, Jake Granville, Anthony Milford.

Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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