Comfort key as Maroons begin Origin camp

Daly Cherry-Evans enjoyed his first Queensland Origin session under returning coach Wayne Bennett.
Daly Cherry-Evans enjoyed his first Queensland Origin session under returning coach Wayne Bennett.

Queensland's fresh-faced State of Origin squad sat like school prefects as principal Wayne Bennett delivered his opening address on Monday.

The recalled Maroons coach has drafted in Mal Meninga and Neil Henry as support after Kevin Walters left his post to take up the Brisbane NRL job.

Injuries, retirements and suspension have ravaged Queensland's stocks, with 17 uncapped players among the 27-strong squad assembled on the Gold Coast this week.

And master coach Bennett, who concocted a series win after debuting 10 players in game one of the 2001 campaign, will have his work cut out against a star-studded New South Wales side gunning for a third-straight triumph.

But captain Daly Cherry-Evans has seen enough to embolden him 10 days out from Adelaide's opener.

"It was my first session with Wayne and he was great; he's obviously got a lot of wisdom, a lot of experience and a few one-liners as well, he's pretty funny," the halfback said.

"When they were speaking everyone was intently listening; you just want to learn.

"If you don't walk away a better-educated footy player you probably haven't been listening.

"We're certainly going to be the underdogs this year - it doesn't matter which way you want to spin it - but we'll enjoy that tag, we can't wait."

He expects Melbourne No.6 Cameron Munster to defy a knee niggle and premiership hangover to arrive in camp later this week with his Storm teammates Brenko Lee, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Christian Welch and Felise Kaufusi and beaten Penrith utility Kurt Capewell.

"He's had an amazing footy season ... I don't know how bad it (his knee) is, or if he's just foxing us," Cherry-Evans said.

"He looked like he's played some pretty good footy so maybe he's bluffed us."

Cherry-Evans also backed emerging fullback AJ Brimson and boom Storm forward Fa'asuamaleaui to flourish on the big stage.

But the Manly playmaker said the key would be not to overplay the moment.

"We want people to feel comfortable as quickly as possible will help settle the nerves," he said.

"Yes the stakes are high, the emotion - it's a big build up - but we want people feeling as comfortable as possible to help bring out everyone's best game.

"We're pretty confident; there's a lot of inexperience but not a lack of talent."

Queensland squad: Jai Arrow, AJ Brimson, Moeaki Fotuaika, Phillip Sami (Gold Coast Titans), Edrick Lee, Hymel Hunt (Newcastle Knights), Valentine Holmes, Coen Hess (North Queensland Cowboys), Xavier Coates, Patrick Carrigan (Brisbane Broncos), Ben Hunt, Josh Kerr (St George Illawarra Dragons), Harry Grant (Wests Tigers / Melbourne Storm), Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly Sea Eagles), Jake Friend, Lindsay Collins (Sydney Roosters), Jaydn Su'A, Corey Allan, Dane Gagai (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Dunamis Lui, Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders), Kurt Capewell (Penrith Panthers), Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Brenko Lee, Cameron Munster, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi (Melbourne Storm).

Australian Associated Press