Walters confirms Cherry-Evans selection
Daly Cherry-Evans hard work in racing back to fitness from an ankle injury will be paid off on Monday night, when Queensland selectors name in the team to face NSW in Origin I.
Cherry-Evans' recovery from ankle surgery has gone so smoothly the incumbent Maroons halfback will join Camp Maroon on Monday to begin preparations for Game One at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday week.
Cherry-Evans vowed to leave no stone unturned to pull off a miracle Origin comeback - and he has delivered on his promise.
The battle for the Queensland captaincy has now been whittled down to a race in two between Cherry-Evans and Michael Morgan, with Matt Gillett ruled out despite a push from Maroons champion Johnathan Thurston.
Queensland coach Kevin Walters will hold a final meeting with selectors Gene Miles, Darren Lockyer and Billy Slater.
They will select injured duo Cherry-Evans and Titans workhorse Jai Arrow (hip flexor), with the Manly halfback to equal the quickest recovery from ankle surgery in NRL history to take the field in the series opener.
Bulldogs playmaker Kieran Foran recently returned from ankle surgery in five-and-a-half weeks and Cherry-Evans has matched that speed of recovery after working around the clock to retain his beloved Maroons No.7 jumper.
Walters confirmed Cherry-Evans is locked in as Queensland's halfback, giving the Sea Eagles skipper another 10 days to strengthen his ankle for his eighth Origin fixture.
"Daly is fine," Walters told The Sunday Mail.
"We will select Daly, get him into camp and then give him every opportunity to prove his fitness with his ankle.
"I'm very confident he will play.
"Daly says his ankle is fine and given his importance to the side we're prepared to support him all the way.
"I saw Daly the other night and while I didn't make him do a fitness test in front of me, he is adamant he is OK and that's good enough for me."
Cherry-Evans has not played since injuring his ankle against Canberra on April 28.
But match fitness will not be a major problem for a 30-year-old who has played 202 top-grade games and was superb in steering the Maroons to a face-saving 18-12 victory in the Origin III dead rubber last year.
Like Cherry-Evans, Arrow did not play in the Titans' 36-18 defeat of Manly on Friday night after suffering a leg injury 24 hours earlier, but Walters will also back the Maroons rookie.
"I'm taking the same attitude with Jai," Walters said. "He says his injury is not serious so we'll get him into camp and give him a few days of treatment."
Tigers skipper Moses Mbye's late withdrawal against Souths with a groin injury is a huge blow to his hopes of an Origin debut in the No.14 jumper.
Mbye's setback opens the door for Cowboys rake Jake Granville and Broncos pivot Anthony Milford, who was Queensland's utility in Origin I last year at the MCG.
It is understood the Origin careers of Matt Scott and Gavin Cooper are over, with the Cowboys duo to be overlooked by Maroons selectors.
Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue will make his Origin debut if selectors decide not to retain out-of-sorts Cowboys forward Coen Hess.
Ben Hunt will be Queensland's hooker if he comes through unscathed against the Sharks on Sunday. Hunt is expected to play about 60 minutes of Origin I with lock Josh McGuire tipped to start at hooker to absorb the early ferocity.
LIKELY QUEENSLAND TEAM: Kalyn Ponga, Corey Oates, Will Chambers, Michael Morgan, Dane Gagai, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans (c), Jai Arrow, Ben Hunt, Josh Papalii, Felise Kaufusi, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire. Bench: Anthony Milford/Jake Granville, Dylan Napa, Joe Ofahengaue, Jarrod Wallace.