Maroons focus on preparation as decider build-up intensifies
MANLY ball player Daly Cherry-Evans was part of a premiership-winning team in his maiden NRL season (2011), but the Queensland utility reckons the lead-up to next week's State of Origin decider is something else entirely.
With the Maroons chasing an eighth successive series triumph, the 24-year-old has acknowledged the excitement surrounding the match in Sydney.
"In regards to build-up, this is definitely bigger than a grand final," he said.
"This is such a long reign by the Queensland side so there's obviously more at stake. I'm looking forward to what's going to be a real thrill running out there on Wednesday."
But he said he was also trying not to get too caught up in the hype.
"I dare say I will be nervous when we are a bit closer to the game, but this week it's all about preparing," he said.
"If you're using up all your energy now getting nervous then it's going to be a long week. I'll try and keep my focus and will be training hard and keeping my mind off it."
Cherry-Evans looms as an important player for Queensland after making an impressive debut off the bench in Brisbane last month.
He made the most of 23 minutes on the paddock, notching up 26 tackles.
"I guess in your first game you don't want the whole game to just slide past and the next thing you know you haven't done anything, so I guess statistically I was pretty busy and I definitely felt that. My lungs were burning.
"But that's the role I've been given in this side."
And although Cherry-Evans has played just one game for Queensland, experienced ball player Johnathan Thurston reckons the Mackay product could emerge as a pivotal player for the Maroons for years to come.
"No doubt if his form continues, he's got another 10 years left in the game and no doubt he'll be one of the mainstays of the team and taking it forward over the next few years," Thurston said.