Queensland understudy Daly Cherry-Evans suddenly finds himself in the State of Origin limelight after Cooper Cronk’s serious injury in game one.
The understudy tag sat well with Daly Cherry-Evans.
But if Queensland are to bounce back and seal a ninth straight State of Origin series win, the youngster must embrace the role he appeared destined for – the Maroons’ star halfback.
Nothing would dull the devastating news that No.7 Cooper Cronk had suffered a suspected broken arm tackling NSW second-rower Ryan Hoffman in the 10th minute of Origin I in Brisbane on Wednesday night.
Especially after Queensland lost 12-8 in Origin game No.100 that also honoured the Maroons’ late, great Artie Beetson.
“Cooper will be in hospital tonight. If it is a broken arm – and I am pretty certain it is – it will be operated on tomorrow so that is disappointing for Coops,” Queensland coach Mal Meninga said.
But Meninga could at least see a silver lining in the dark cloud that threatened to envelop the Maroons dressing room after the heart-stopping loss.
Considered the form NRL’s halfback, Cherry-Evans was unlucky to be relegated to the bench for the recent trans-Tasman Test.
Cronk’s form resurgence for Melbourne ensured the Maroons selectors’ famous loyalty would not be tested.
Cherry-Evans made all the right noises throughout, saying he would relish what appeared a long apprenticeship under Cronk.
At times he seemed bedazzled when thrust into the Origin limelight on Wednesday night but was not alone as Queensland rued missed opportunities in a hectic finish.
But overall Meninga liked what he saw.
“We are lucky that we had Daly,” he said.
“It (Cooper’s injury) did throw us off, it takes your bench to three, but that is not an excuse.
“I still thought we did enough to win that game.
“But to NSW’s credit their defence was outstanding, kick chase was excellent and they came ready to play.”
Queensland captain Cameron Smith – nursing a “dusty” ankle complaint – tried not to give too much away on how much it hurt losing his Melbourne teammate Cronk.
“It’s always hard losing a player to injury especially a halfback,” he said.
“But that is no excuse – we have a pretty capable replacement in Daly.
“I thought he did a good job. Unfortunately we didn’t take our opportunities to score and possibly win the game.”
Asked if Queensland were an easier side to stop without Cronk on Wednesday night, NSW captain Paul Gallen said: “You guys watch that game?
“Cherry-Evans was bouncing forwards off. He’s in great form.”
Smith did not have to be told how hard it would be to bounce back in Sydney in Origin II in three weeks but refused to lose faith in his all-conquering side.
“We can be better,” he warned.
“We have been in this situation before, we are no stranger to being 0-1 down.”