On April 15, Greg Inglis sat down at a podium in a room full of reporters, teammates and friends. He had donned not the red and green jersey of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, but had opted instead for a sharp navy sport coat with a myrtle tie, colors that paid homage to his time at both the Bunnies and the Melbourne Storm.
“What a career.”
The first words from the iconic player summed up the thoughts of all in the room. Inglis had indeed had a great career. Inglis won three Grand Finals in his career. He played in hundreds of NRL games and represented his state and country in numerous State of Origin Series and international matches for Queensland and Australia. The retirement of Inglis was imminent; he had announced that he would be walking away after his Souths contract expired after the 2020 season. However, injuries have taken their toll on the massive Inglis, and his time to ride into the sunset came earlier than anticipated.
Inglis is content with his decision and eager to move on. So, too, must the teams he plays for. This means that in just over a month, the Queensland team for the State of Origin Series needs to find a new captain. If you were to ask Maroons coach Kevin Walters, the poor form of Ben Hunt in last year’s Origin games came at the perfect time. Hunt started the first two games of the 2018 State of Origin Series at halfback for the Maroons, but was replaced by the exiled Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves for the third and final game after Queensland dropped the first two by a combined score of 40-26. Cherry-Evans managed to right the ship and save Queensland from being swept, grabbing a try for himself in the Maroons’ sole victory. With Inglis now gone and DCE having an outstanding season (he led all of the NRL in points scored through the first five weeks of 2019), it seems almost serendipitous that the Manly-Warringah captain would be able to step into a similar role for Queensland this June.
That’s not to say that Cherry-Evans is without any competition for his role as captain or his position at halfback, however. He faces pressure from incumbent starter Hunt, whose Dragons defeated Cherry-Evans’ Sea Eagles this past weekend on the back of a late Mikaele Ravalawa try, as well as Cowboys halfback Michael Morgan.
Morgan has made the best of a rough first season as captain so far in Townsville, often acting as the lone bright spot for a team that has won only twice in their first six despite playing four of those games at home. It should be noted that Morgan’s position as Cowboys captain gives him an outside shot to captain the Maroons.
Additionally, while he is an exciting talent, it seems like the Newcastle Knights have closed the book on the Kalyn Ponga experience for now. Ponga’s best position looks to be in the No.1 jersey at fullback for the Knights, and that will be where he will stay for now. In early weeks, the thought was that Ponga and Mitchell Pearce could form a partnership in the halves for the Knights, but the Newcastle club struggled mightily. If eligible, Bulldogs Rookie of the Year Lachlan Lewis could be an intriguing option for future series as well. Lewis was born in Brisbane and his uncle, Wally Lewis, is a Maroon legend in his own right. However, selection may be more complicated given that his NRL debut came with Canterbury.
No. 7 for the Maroons, Kevin Walters will no doubt have himself a talented player to slot into the lineup. The greater challenge, however, is whether Cherry-Evans will be named captain and if he can step into the massive shoes of Greg Inglis.