Booed just days ago by Queensland fans, Daly Cherry-Evans insists winning back support will be the last thing on his mind when he holds the Maroons reins in next week’s crunch State of Origin II clash in Melbourne.
Queensland coach Mal Meninga has kept the faith with Cherry-Evans, slotting him in for injured halfback Cooper Cronk (knee) for June 17’s clash at the MCG.
But the jury is still out with some Maroons fans after Cherry-Evans ended months of speculation by reneging on a four year Gold Coast deal to stay at Manly.
His backflip caused uproar north of the Tweed River, so much so that he was jeered by Suncorp Stadium fans during Brisbane’s 44-10 NRL win over Manly last Friday night.
But Cherry-Evans did not believe he had anything to prove in game two.
“I have many ambitions and motives to play Origin and proving the crowd wrong is not one of them,” he said.
“The spotlight and the attention really hasn’t bothered me.
“The only support I haven’t got is from the media and that is quite irrelevant to be honest.
“I have just tried to enjoy footy and family life.
“The structures in place in this Queensland side are pretty black and white so I just need to play my role.”
Meninga insisted Cherry-Evans’ contract drama would not be an issue in the Maroons camp.
“He will be fine. What has occurred in the past is behind him now,” he said.
“To be honest we don’t think about those sorts of things.
“This is the Queensland team and we are moving forward.
“We wouldn’t probably discuss that in camp to be honest.”
Maroons skipper Cameron Smith admitted Cherry-Evans faced a huge challenge stepping up in place of Cronk after his contract saga.
Especially after it proved such a tough ask the first time he filled in for Cronk in game two last year.
Cherry-Evans struggled with a knee injury and didn’t fire a shot at No.7 when Cronk (broken arm) missed last year’s Origin II as NSW sealed their first series win in nine years.
But Smith claimed Cherry-Evans was ready to “make a statement” for the Maroons in game two.
“I see it as a big challenge for him personally but I think he is up to it,” Smith said.
“The best thing is that he will be able to train with us for the entire camp.
“Last time he had the No.7 jersey he had one training session with us.”
Queensland have talked up the fitness of fullback Billy Slater (shoulder) and centre Greg Inglis who is nursing a knee complaint while recovering from a bout of tonsillitis that floored him ahead of game one.
Cherry-Evans (shoulder) missed game one but his elevation at halfback ensured Cowboys playmaker Michael Morgan kept his spot as bench utility.
Instead of an 18th man, Meninga added three players to an extended Maroons squad – Newcastle duo Korbin Sims and Dane Gagai and Canberra enforcer Josh Papalii.