Maroons coach Kevin Walters says Daly Cherry-Evans will bring the poise and experience needed for Queensland to ensure they don't end up on the wrong side of a clean sweep in next Wednesday's Origin finale at Suncorp Stadium.
Cherry-Evans has returned to the Queensland side at halfback in place of Ben Hunt, who moves to the bench in an interchange role. He will likely spend time at dummy-half in the latter stages of the game.
Out from the cold: Daly Cherry-Evans is back in the Queensland fold.
While Walters defended Hunt from the array of critics that had their say about his game management at ANZ Stadium, he said Cherry-Evans now had the chance to take control of the side and potentially lock down the jersey for 2019.
"It's great news for DCE and Queensland. He's been knocking on the door for a few years now for that elusive opportunity and I just feel that the time is right," Walters said.
"Nothing is a free hit in Origin. We've picked him for a reason – we want to win game three. Moving forward, if DCE can have a good performance on Wednesday week there's no reason he can't be back here next year."
Walters again rubbished rumours that Cherry-Evans had a personality clash with either players or staff, saying the Manly playmaker would be welcomed back with open arms.
"I've denied those rumours from day dot. I don't have a problem in any way and neither do our players. He's a great, experienced player. He's a premiership winner, he's played Origin football, he's played Test football.
"In games one and two, we lacked a little bit of leadership in those positions and he provides all of that."
As for Hunt, who may have been dropped if Kalyn Ponga had been fit, Walters said the pressure was now off and he could contribute without needing to guide the team over the line.
Leading from the front: Billy Slater will be captain for the Maroons in his Origin farewell.
"We know he belongs at this level. It's just a matter of finding a role in this side. He covers a number of positions and we've just taken all the load off him now. We just want him to go out and play footy."
It was a nightmare weekend for the Maroons, who have been forced into a swag of changes for the decider. Billy Slater will captain the team in his final Origin in place of Greg Inglis (thumb), whose absence sees Dane Gagai move to the centres and Corey Oates return to the wing.
Josh Papalii and Jai Arrow are the new starting props, with Tim Glasby on the bench for Dylan Napa, who was named in an extended squad but won't be considered due to a knee injury.
Reprieve: Ben Hunt remains in the Maroons squad but moves to the bench.
With Matt Gillett still out and a number of impressive young forwards hovering in the wings, including Brisbane's Joe Ofahengaue and Jaydn Su'a, who wasn't considered due to a foot injury, the match could be a last throw of the dice for the likes of Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess, who must lift their form against a top-shelf Blues pack.
Queensland squad for Origin III
Billy Slater (c), Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Will Chambers, Corey Oates, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans, Jai Arrow, Andrew McCullough, Josh Papalii, Gavin Cooper, Felise Kaufusi, Josh McGuire. Interchange: Ben Hunt, Jarrod Wallace, Coen Hess, Tim Glasby. 18th man: Dylan Napa
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