What Cherry-Evans told his Queensland side after losing two players in four minutes
Keep calm and carry on.
That was the simple message Queensland skipper Daly Cherry-Evans delivered to his Maroons team after one of the most brutal starts to a State of Origin match ever seen.
After just four minutes of mayhem at Wednesday’s series decider in Brisbane, both teams had lost players to head knocks.
NSW’s Cameron Murray as well as Queensland pair Selwyn Cobbo and Lindsay Collins were all out of the game before the match had really even started, setting the tone for a pulsating encounter which had the Maroons defying the odds to win the series with a 22-12 victory.
The victory was secured in a second half which the undermanned Queenslanders dominated against more-favoured opponents, scoring two tries to none in a contest that also included Matt Burton and Dane Gagai being sin-binned after throwing punches at each other in an on-field brawl.
Cherry-Evans was in tears after the win before going on the stage to lift the shield for the second time as Queensland captain.
He said telling his teammates to refocus and keep their heads after the tumultuous start had been a key to overcoming the odds.
“We felt like the team that remained the calmest was going to win,” Cherry-Evans said.
“The team that reverted back to just playing footy was going to win because there was so many different things out there that changed the game from head knocks to sin bins.
“Those things can really impact a game of footy and just the team that comes out the other side playing the smarter game (prevails) and we did that.
“We played a style that wore them down by the end.”
The win ended a drama-filled build-up for the Maroons which began on Friday with star playmaker Cameron Munster and winger Murray Taulagi both testing positive for COVID-19.
That forced the entire camp into lockdown at the Gold Coast resort before tests cleared the rest of the squad to play.
With Munster and Taulagi out, Corey Oates was rushed into the camp and Tom Dearden thrust into a starting halves position alongside Cherry-Evans.
The halfback said a quick coffee with Dearden convinced him the North Queensland rookie was ready for the Origin stage.
“As soon as we knew he was playing we went for a coffee and he asked as many questions as he could to just feel comfortable and straightaway I knew from from the smiles and the nods he was giving me that he was going to be alright,” Cherry-Evans said.
The win means NSW still have only ever won two deciders in Brisbane in Origin history, and Cherry-Evans was clearly proud to have replicated the feats of past teams.
“There’s something just about when you come into camp, you’ve got a responsibility and it’s not a daunting responsibility, it’s a responsibility that makes you excited and grateful for where you are,” he said.
“There’s a lot of history that’s gone before us.
“We unpacked a lot of that this week.
“We just knew that based on all of those Queensland moments, it was our turn to produce one. That was as simple as it was.”
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