Maroons plan to topple Blues’ Panther clique


BRISBANE: Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans admits the Penrith blueprint has been studied in camp this week, aware they must not only counter it, but dictate to snap a five-year State of Origin drought in Sydney.
Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai orchestrated 50-6 and 26-0 floggings to win New South Wales (NSW) back the shield last year, Queensland’s game three victory only coming with both men absent through injury.
The pair have won a premiership together since then, their dominance recognised with an National Rugby League-high six players in Brad Fittler’s side to play on Wednesday.
The halves and ball-playing lock Isaah Yeo have formed a formidable partnership that Cherry-Evans says has kept new coach Billy Slater busy analysing this week.
“The more time you spend out on the field with someone, you’re going to improve and build a good connection,” he said of the threat.
“They’ve done that at club level and have a few mates around them (for NSW) to help them out.
“We’re pretty aware of ways we can try and limit them but it’s easier said than done.
“We’ve given them the respect this week, but we’ve come back to the fact that we need to dictate how we play.”
There is familiarity for the Maroons too, with Ben Hunt retained at hooker after starring there in game three last year and fiveeighth Cameron Munster set to play his 15th Origin game.
The No.6 was up to his usual tricks at Queensland’s final training session before flying to Sydney yesterday, heckling the captain as he spoke to media.
Munster has arrived in camp in career-best shape and exciting form after a white-powder scandal last year saw him fined, suspended and promptly checked into a health and wellness retreat.
“He’s still the same idiot that we all love,” Cherry-Evans said.
“And I enjoy having Ben in the side, especially at hooker, he opens up so many options, he really is the complete package.” Queensland haven’t beaten the Blues since Fittler took over in 2018, but Cherry-Evans says that hasn’t been a theme under Slater, who has ditched any talk of underdog status under his watch.
“It’s not for us to worry about; we can’t control what’s happened in the last five years,” he said.
“They’ve (the coaching staff) put their spin on it, what they believe will make us play well on Wednesday and everyone’s bought into that style of footy.
“I’m hoping it’s reflective of the players in the side.”