Jeers may soon turn to cheers for Daly Cherry-Evans from Queensland fans after Cooper Cronk’s surprise State of Origin II withdrawal on Monday.
Booed just days ago in Queensland’s rugby league heartland, Cherry-Evans has now been hailed by the Maroons as the man to replace veteran halfback Cronk (knee) in the second match of the series in Melbourne on June 17.
After initially being cleared of serious injury, Cronk is expected to miss up to a month after scans on Monday revealed a low-grade meniscus tear in his right knee.
Cherry-Evans (shoulder) missed Origin I but his elevation to halfback all but ensures loyal Queensland selectors will retain Cowboys strike weapon Michael Morgan as their bench utility.
There was uproar north of the Tweed River over Cherry-Evans’ decision to renege on a four-year Gold Coast deal and stay in Manly last week.
The Maroons X-factor was booed at Queensland’s beloved Suncorp Stadium when he touched the ball during Brisbane’s 44-10 win over Manly on Friday night.
Andrew Johns suggested Cherry-Evans’ well documented backflip may even affect his Origin II selection chances.
However, Queensland chief selector Des Morris dismissed concerns.
“That’s not going to be an issue,” Morris told AAP.
Veteran No.7 Cronk cooly slotted the late match-winning field goal to seal Queensland’s 11-10 Origin I win in Sydney, just as he had done to clinch the 2012 series.
Morris said the mettle Cherry-Evans had shown during the contract saga was just what was needed to fill in for Cronk.
“I think he has shown he is a player with a good head on his shoulders,” he said.
“He can rise to the occasion.
“I think he has earned that right to play there.”
Morris said Broncos No.7 Ben Hunt was also considered but Cherry-Evans was the “most logical” choice.
While Morris said Cronk’s withdrawal was “disappointing”, he believed Cherry-Evans would benefit from a full preparation at halfback – unlike his last experience wearing the Maroons No.7 jersey.
Cherry-Evans replaced Cronk (broken arm) for Origin II last year.
However, he too was a last-minute starter for Origin II due to a troublesome knee injury and only enjoyed one full training session at halfback with Queensland.
It showed. Cherry-Evans never fired a shot as NSW secured their first Origin series in nine years with the game two victory in Sydney.
“At least Daly will have a full lead-up to the game this time, he can get settled,” Morris said.
“The bright side is that everyone we go with will be fit and ready to go and there will be no more distractions.”
Despite Cherry-Evans’ withdrawal, Queensland were also plagued by speculation over Billy Slater (shoulder), Greg Inglis (tonsillitis) and Justin Hodges (foot) ahead of last month’s Origin I win.