What can I say about what it means to be a Queenslander? Let me start by stating the obvious. The Queensland Maroons jersey is definitely a jersey you aspire to play in as a kid.
Playing NRL is the first step and you get even more ambitious and you want a Maroons jersey. It’s an exciting trip to take as a player.
The moment you do get the opportunity to play for Queensland is one I don’t think anyone who has been privileged enough to do it will ever forget. I know I certainly will never forget the jersey being presented to me and then running out onto Suncorp, where I was lucky enough to debut.
It’s something you work towards for so long and it is really a special moment when you get the chance to do it.
Kevie actually presented my first Maroons jersey to me. He was an assistant coach for Mal Meninga back then. I owe a lot to Mal. He’s had a really positive impact on my footy career. I’m extremely grateful he gave me the opportunity to play for Queensland all those years ago. It’s also pretty special to have played for Australia with him as my coach.
With Kevie, what you see is what you get. He can’t hide his emotions. He just has to tell it how it is. And for me, that’s something I’ve always admired about, not just my coaches, but also people I have in my life. I enjoy direct honesty. What he has been able to do with his career as a player, in particular what he did as a Maroon – it is a really special moment to get your first Queensland jersey handed to you by a legend like himself. Again, one of those moments I will never forget. It’s crazy to look at the path we’ve taken. I’m lucky enough to lead the team out now and he’s obviously our coach and overseeing everything.
Looking back further, my first game of rugby league was for the Redcliffe Dolphins as a five-year-old kid, playing a couple of years up in the Under 7s.
I fell in love with the game early. It’s in my family, on both sides, with the Cherry side coming from Roma. Then dad came down from Rockhampton and played for Redcliffe and Norths. I don’t think I even had a choice not to play rugby league, so luckily I did love it and haven’t looked back.
When it came to rugby league, whether it was grand final day or Origin, our household was always awake to watch the games. I was very lucky that mum and dad were pretty lenient with me, to let me stay up late and watch games like Origin. They’re the moments that, as a kid, you start to really think ‘maybe one day, that could be me’. It starts from a young age - that rivalry, you can see from the start as a kid, there’s just nothing like it.
It’s such an honour to be able to play a role in it now.
I’ve played footy every year since I was a five-year-old boy – from the first time I played it to the last game I played, I can honestly say I’ve still got the love for the game and that enjoyment. That’s what keeps me playing year after year. It’s part of the reason I want to play for as long as I can, because I just enjoy it.
When it comes to the Maroons, the players who have had the biggest impact of me are the halves. Definitely JT and Coops. They were more than happy to give their time when I was in camp as a rookie, so I always appreciate that.
I definitely admired the way Cam led the side and Billy, with his last game. Cam’s leadership speaks for itself. He is cool, calm and collected and has a competitive edge like only the greats of our game have. This was something I was able to witness when I first came into the squad. It was a squad stacked with some of the greatest to have pulled on a Maroons jersey.
With Billy’s last game I got so much out of the way he handled the week. His passion showed in every word and every action. The way he prepared for a game of footy was so detailed – it was no wonder it looked like he always knew what was going to happen next.
There have been so many memorable moments for me during my time in the team – getting picked on by Alfie before my debut game. I had a couple of 18th mans, so I kind of knew what was coming, but when you’re about to debut you get some royal treatment from Alfie Langer and you’re dusty the next day. He definitely got hold of me when I was going to debut.
It’s stuff like that that brings you together and makes you feel special, makes you feel part of a team. For a young halfback, to have Alfie Langer calling out to you, even if he is teasing you, it’s cool to know you’re about to be part of the Queensland family.
Camps are great, even just day to day. If you’re not training, just grabbing whoever is around to grab a coffee. Moments like that are a big part of why I love rugby league.
Don’t get me wrong, the competitive nature of the game and the results are certainly a big motivation of mine, but second to that is the comradery you share and build through having a beer or going for a coffee. Those moments I really do treasure and I try to get as social as I can during camp because you never know when it’s going to be your last camp, so you have to enjoy it.
To think about where rugby league all started for me and where it’s at now, I can’t help but think if I didn’t love it as much as I do, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now.
I’ve ridden wave after wave of emotion during my rugby league career, like most people do. But when I do get a little down I’m pretty quick to tell myself ‘you know what, you’re not hurt, you’re not sick, you just haven’t got it your way this time’. I’ve been taught by my parents that if you don’t get what you want, keep trying harder until you get it.
Giving up is never an option.Daly Cherry-Evans FOG #176
If there’s something you enjoy or something you love, then you’ve got to chase it. You’ve got to chase your dreams, you’ve got to chase your passions.
Rugby league is a passion of mine and a love of mine, so I wasn’t really too concerned with what was in the way. It was just a matter of making sure I was patient and persistent. And it has all worked out pretty nicely.
When I first came into the Queensland team, I came in and obviously got a lot of praise. And then when you fall out of the side, opinions can quickly turn of you. Which they did for me. I felt as though the only way I could earn people’s respect back was through my actions. I feel as though I’ve earned a lot of respect back through my actions. And every game I play, I’ll continue trying to do that. However there is more to rugby league than trying to earn respect every game. The result is certainly another big factor. Unfortunately sometimes I haven’t won, we haven’t won, and that makes people – you - upset. But I don’t think anyone will ever be more upset than what I am.
I am my harshest critic, so if you’re upset about a loss, you can guarantee I am devastated because I’ve just had to physically experience it.
I respect the passion fans and supporters have – that’s why it’s the greatest game of all, because we do have that comradery with our supporters, but it’s always a crazy ride with the people supporting you because you don’t win all the time.
Let’s be honest, we all want to win! Sometimes it’s just not our night. It’s all part of the game.
For me, the feeling of running out, wearing that Maroons jersey, never gets old.
I have been fortunate enough to be captain of a few teams now and just that simple moment of leading out a team is really such a special moment. To have done that for Queensland, in front of a Suncorp Stadium crowd, is dead set a moment I put right next to my debut for Queensland. What an honour.
That moment of leading out the team is not just a special moment for myself, but my family as well. They ride every wave with me.
When I get booed, or if something nasty is written about me, they see that and experience it. So that moment of leading out a Queensland team with the whole state behind us, was a really special moment for them as well.
When it comes to Queenslanders, there’s absolutely nothing I would change. Queensland fans are unique!
The one thing I admire so much, about what Queenslanders – you - stand for, is you never ever jump off, whether things are going good or whether things are going bad, it doesn’t matter – it’s your side!
Don’t get me wrong, if we are down 2-0 in a series, we are going to hear about it! And that’s fair enough - you guys care and we feel that in your voices every time we get an opportunity to play for the Maroons.
That’s one thing that always gave me motivation to get back into the side, was knowing it is such a special feeling to be involved in an Origin series. You’ve got a whole state behind you. I probably felt that most when I had the return game at the end of 2018.
The series had been wrapped up, but we went to a fan day in Bundaberg and the amount of people that came and wanted to see the Queensland team, because regardless of whether we’d won the series or not, we were the Queensland team and there’s still so much prestige in the jersey.
It's an honour for any player to get any game for Queensland. That really hit home for me. Every time you play for Queensland, whether the first game or the last game, it’s still a State of Origin game and to the Queensland supporter base, it matters. Every game matters.
New South Wales supporters, keep being yourselves. I know we’ve got the best supporters and I’m proud to run out in front of our fans because I know it means a lot to them – to you - and every game matters.
Thanks for all the support Queenslanders.