The stage had been set for Daly Cherry-Evans to become Queensland’s white knight in State of Origin II in Melbourne on Wednesday night.
Instead the Maroons playmaker remains rugby league’s black sheep, it seems, after Queensland’s 26-18 Origin II loss to NSW.
Cherry-Evans polarised the public when he backflipped on a four-year Gold Coast NRL deal and stayed at Manly on a “lifetime” $10 million deal.
Yet a packed MCG crowd appeared to merge as one to boo the Maroons halfback when his image appeared on the big screen as he ran out.
It was a ribbing that had added effect thanks to a record Origin crowd of 91,513.
And it wasn’t the first time Cherry-Evans found a way to bring Origin’s tribal rivalry together.
The only thing Queensland captain Cameron Smith and NSW rival Paul Gallen could agree on before the match was that Cherry-Evans faced the biggest challenge in Origin II.
Suffice to say there was plenty of pressure as he attempted to step up for the injured Cooper Cronk (knee).
But it seems there were no excuses.
Cherry-Evans was filling in for Cronk just as he had done in game two last year.
However, that’s where the similarities ended.
Last year Cherry-Evans struggled in Origin II after having just one training session due to a knee niggle.
This time Cherry-Evans had a full preparation in the Maroons camp.
Unfortunately for the Queensland halfback the result seemed to be the same.
He appeared frazzled, took poor options and was disjointed alongside pivot Johnathan Thurston.
Overall he had a team high three missed tackles.
The signs were ominous for Cherry-Evans when he missed a tackle that led to NSW centre and man of the match Michael Jennings’ fourth minute try.
He may lay claim to a try assist but back-rower Matt Gillett had plenty of work to do, stepping through Paul Gallen and Robbie Farah to score in the 47th minute.
Before the game Queensland assistant Michael Hagan admitted being without Cronk in game two was an “issue”.
But Hagan hoped Cherry-Evans was up for the challenge.
“You want to build a team around someone like that,” Hagan said.
But it remains to be seen if and when Cherry-Evans will be the man for Queensland to build around.
Cronk hopes to return ahead of game three on July 8 in Brisbane.
He has already shown his regenerative powers by returning early from a broken wrist in 2014’s game three.
And Brisbane’s Ben Hunt is currently the NRL’s form halfback.
Cynics could argue at least one thing went to script for Cherry-Evans on Wednesday night.
The boos he copped were expected after he was jeered recently at Queensland home ground Suncorp Stadium playing for Manly against the Broncos.