NRL DRAGONS SEA EAGLES
Rift? What rift?
Three years in the State of Origin wilderness are over for Daly Cherry-Evans after an injury-ravaged Queensland recalled the polarising Manly skipper for July 11's dead rubber.
Cherry-Evans ended 1,111 days on the Maroons outer when he was named to start at halfback, replacing Ben Hunt who has been relegated to the bench in another new-look Queensland team.
Veteran fullback Billy Slater will become Queensland's 14th captain in his 31st and final Origin, replacing inspirational centre Greg Inglis (broken thumb).
But all eyes will be on Cherry-Evans in Origin III after Queensland sent an SOS following years of rumours that the Sea Eagles playmaker had fallen out with the Maroons.
He played the last of his six Origins for Queensland in game two, 2015.
When inevitably asked about a DCE-Maroons rift, Queensland coach Kevin Walters said: "I have denied those rumours from day dot.
"I don't have a problem in any way and neither do the players (with DCE).
"We just lacked a bit of leadership in those positions (halves) and I believe DCE certainly provides that.
"If DCE can have a good performance on Wednesday week there is no reason why he can't be back here next year."
The Maroons were forced to delay their scheduled Sunday night team announcement until Monday after Inglis broke down in South Sydney's NRL win over North Queensland.
Queensland were also hit by injuries to bench utility Kalyn Ponga (hamstring) and prop Dylan Napa (knee), who was named at 18th man but was not expected to play.
Cherry-Evans appeared no closer to a recall this year after he was overlooked for the first two games despite the retirement of Maroons greats Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston and a string of injuries.
It only fuelled speculation that Cherry-Evans had had his Origin card permanently marked.
Asked if the injuries gave Queensland no choice but to pick DCE, Walters said: "Nothing is a free hit in Origin.
"He's been knocking on the door for several years now waiting for that elusive opportunity and I feel the time is right for that opportunity."
Cherry-Evans slots in for Hunt who was criticised for his attacking options in Queensland's 18-14 game two loss that sealed NSW's second series win in 13 years.
Slater takes over the reins of a Maroons side that has also welcomed back Brisbane winger Corey Oates and Melbourne bench forward Tim Glasby.
Walters hoped Slater's elevation as skipper would help the Maroons avoid their first NSW whitewash since 2000 and fourth overall.
"The other 16 players owe Billy Slater a send off that is just right for him. I know you don't always get what you want but certainly we have plenty to play for," he said.
Inglis' injury forced a backline reshuffle with Dane Gagai switching to the centres with Oates on the left wing.
Gold Coast's Jai Arrow has moved from the bench to prop for Napa while Josh Papalii also graduated to the starting front row with maligned Queensland prop Jarrod Wallace on the bench.
Queensland: Billy Slater (capt), 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.