Mal Meninga putting his faith in Daly Cherry-Evans
QUEENSLAND coach Mal Meninga had no fears replacement No.7 Daly Cherry-Evans could crumble under the immense pressure of the past month after the massive public outcry over his highly publicised NRL contract back-flip.
As expected, Meninga opted for Cherry-Evans to replace injured Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk, booked for surgery on a meniscus tear that is also threatening his place in Origin III in Brisbane on July 7 - a potential series' decider if NSW can level the series at the MCG next Wednesday night.
NSW coach Laurie Daley, meanwhile, opted for two changes to his side which lost game one by a point in Sydney last month, recalling Bulldogs winger Brett Morris for Rooster Daniel Tupou, relegating Josh Jackson to the bench and axing Sharks battering ram Andrew Fafita.
The big news for the Blues though was Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah (shoulder) being named in the 17-man squad, although he still has to get through the week.
"We've got a really good group of guys that's up for the challenge and we'll be prepared well," said Daley, who added that Farah would take part in training today.
Meninga could have gone with in-form Brisbane No.7 Ben Hunt,who many believe is ready for Origin, or even North Queensland utility Michael Morgan, who scored a key try in the Cowboys' astonishing 36-30 comeback win against a bewildered Eels on Monday night.
Cherry-Evans has copped both barrels in polls and on social media as public enemy No.1 in Queensland since reneging on a deal with the Titans.
But Meninga said he was confident Cherry-Evans would put the drama behind him and "get the job done". "He'll be great. What's occurred in the past is behind him and he's moved on,'' he said. "He played really well in a beaten side against the Broncos on Friday night and I reckon he will look forward to the challenge."
Maroons skipper Cameron Smith agreed.
"I see it as a pretty big challenge for him, but I think he's up to it,'' he said. "He's a fantastic player and the best thing about this week is he will be able to train with us for the entire camp as opposed to last year when he had one (training) session with us."
Queensland named three other players, Josh Papali, Dane Gagai and Korbin Sims, to be part of their Melbourne camp.
QUEENSLAND: Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Will Cambers, Johnathan Thurston, Daly Cherry-Evans, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (c), Nate Myles, Aidan Guerra, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker. Interchange: Michael Morgan, Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett, Jacob Lillyman. (also in camp Josh Papali, Dane Gagai, Korbin Sims).
NSW: Josh Dugan, Brett Morris, Michael Jennings, Josh Morris, Will Hopoate, Mitchell Pearce, Trent Hodkinson, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah, James Tamou, Ryan Hoffman, Beau Scott, Paul Gallen (c). Interchange: Dave Klemmer, Boyd Cordner, Trent Merrin, Jackson.