analysis

STATE OF ORIGIN: Daly Cherry-Evans is on the cusp of being one of the all-time great Maroons skippers

Joel Gould
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during game two last year.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during game two last year. Credit: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Fullback: Reece Walsh

Age: 21

Origins: 2

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Origin tries: 0

They call him “Reece Lightning” and with good reason. Few players light up a rugby league field like the Broncos’ whiz kid. Bold, brash and brilliant, Walsh and NSW pantomime villain Jarome Luai have an old-fashioned Origin feud going that should be a centrepiece of the action.

Winger: Xavier Coates

Age: 23

Origins: 8

Origin tries: 3

Coates has scored tries no-one else could due to his speed and athleticism. He wanted to be an Olympian in his youth and utilise his jumping prowess. It was a NSW Blues stalwart Matt Geyer who encouraged Coates on his league pathway and he has been backed to the hilt by Maroons coach Billy Slater.

Centre: Valentine Holmes

Age: 28

Origins: 16

Origin tries: 13

There are those deemed to be “Origin players” and Holmes is one of them. His strike-rate for tries of 0.81 per game in the Origin arena has the North Queensland weapon on track to surpass Greg Inglis (18 tries) as the state’s all- time best.

Centre: Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow

Age: 22

Origins: 4

Origin tries: 5

They call him “Hammer” and Tabuai-Fidow does exactly that across the turf. Once clocked at 10.85 seconds for 100m as a 16-year-old, he scored one of the all- time great individual tries in Origin 1 in Adelaide last year.

Winger: Murray Taulagi

Age: 25

Origins: 4

Origin tries: 1

Taulagi could have pursued a career at the elite level in rugby union. He has a habit of coming up with big plays when needed and is a reliable finisher. Uses his huge frame to great impact with his blockbusting runs and is also a physical presence in defence.

Five-eighth: Tom Dearden

Age: 23

Origins: 1

Origin tries: 0

Dearden stepped up at short notice on Origin debut in 2022 to lead the Maroons to victory in the decider in the absence of Camerom Munster. Munster is absent again and the Cowboys co-captain is more than ready to fill the breach.

Halfback: Daly Cherry-Evans

Age: 35

Origins: 22

Origin tries: 2

Cherry-Evans shows no signs of being out of place in the Origin arena despite his age. He has now etched his name in the annals of the great Maroons captains with three series wins as skipper. The rudder and spiritual leader of the team.

Daly Cherry-Evans holds aloft the State of Origin Shield last year.
Daly Cherry-Evans holds aloft the State of Origin Shield last year. Credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Prop: Reuben Cotter

Age: 25

Origins: 4

Origin tries: 0

Cotter played every minute of the 2023 Origin series to be player of the series. A throwback to the 1980s, the Cowboys warhorse would play all night if asked. Hits hard and runs hard. Does it all game.

Hooker: Ben Hunt

Age: 34

Origins: 17

Origin tries: 3

The veteran St George-Illawarra half is one of those multifaceted elite players who can play another position in the spine in the Origin arena with equal aplomb. One of the first picked, Hunt gets better each series he plays.

Prop: Lindsay Collins

Age: 28

Origins: 9

Origin tries: 0

The Sydney Roosters front-rower is the unsung hero of the Maroons. He missed the 2021 Origin series with injury. Apart from that his strike-rate is three series wins from three. Has never been left out when fit since his debut.

Second-row: Jaydn Su’A

Age: 26

Origins: 4

Origin tries: 0

Su’A has reinvented himself at the Dragons under coach Shane Flanagan to bring an end to a three-year Origin absence. An old school hitman like former Maroons enforcer Ben Te’o.

Second-row: Jeremiah Nanai

Age: 21

Origins: 5

Origin tries: 1

Nanai is one of the game’s most dangerous threats in attack in the air, and he is a forward. It is a remarkable rise for Nanai who is a damaging ball runner and can pack a punch in defence. Gives real X-factor to Queensland’s forwards.

Lock: Patrick Carrigan

Age: 26

Origins: 6

Origin tries: 0

The Broncos No.13 has shone in the Origin cauldron where his work rate is matched by skill with the ball in hand. Has been touted as a future Maroons captain for his strong leadership and example.

Patrick Carrigan is an Origin workhorse
Patrick Carrigan is an Origin workhorse Credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Bench: Harry Grant

Age: 26

Origins: 8

Origin tries: 1

Melbourne captain Grant made a stunning entry into Origin footy when he scored on debut in 2020 to clinch a series win. Is a crafty and confident presence at No.9 where his deception, pace and power combine to make the complete rake.

Bench: Moeaki Fotuaika

Age: 24

Origins: 6

Origin tries: 0

Gold Coast powerhouse Fotuaika was a schoolboy colleague of NSW counterpart Payne Haas at Keebra Park High. Fotuaika is more than capable of taking it to Haas, who he respects but wants to dominate.

Bench: J’maine Hopgood

Age: 25

Origins: 0

Parramatta’s strong man has built a reputation for being ferocious in defence and always ripping in with the ball. Hopgood also has an effective offload. Once worked as a carpenter and is now nailing it ahead of his Origin debut.

Bench: Selwyn Cobbo

Age: 21

Origins: 4

Origin tries: 2

Cobbo has been described by Queensland selector Darren Lockyer as “exactly like Greg Inglis“, with his devastating abilities in the outside backs in three positions. Could also be utilised in the middle.

18th man: Felse Kaufusi

Age: 32

Origins: 14

Origin tries: 2

Kaufusi was suspended during last year’s series but has bounced back superbly to showcase his aggressive ways for the Dolphins.

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