Maroons assistant coach Michael Hagan has warned that Daly Cherry-Evans will need time to adjust to the extra responsibility of being the starting halfback in a State of Origin match as Queensland face a do-or-die meeting with the Blues on June 18.
With confirmation that Cooper Cronk will miss the remainder of the Series with a broken left arm suffered in Wednesday night's 12-8 loss at Suncorp Stadium, Queensland selectors are now sweating on the availability of Cherry-Evans who left the stadium on crutches after suffering a knee injury.
Playing down the extent of the injury on Thursday, if fit Cherry-Evans will be the Queensland halfback for Game Two but Hagan conceded that slotting in as Johnathan Thurston's halves partner won't be a completely seamless transition.
"We've had a fantastic run in keeping our team together for a number of games so this will probably test our resolve a little bit," Hagan told NRL.com. "We'll see how guys pull up and recover what sort of shape they'll be in in a couple of weeks' time.
"I think it's taken 'JT' and Cooper six games to get comfortable in their roles so if you drop someone in after 10 minutes and get your head around where you need to get to and what you need to do – and to be honest JT probably hasn't had to be as dominant in kicking the footy so he had to assume a bit more of that responsibility on the run.
"We were in pretty good shape with someone like Daly on the bench but he probably didn't spend too much time at halfback during our week in camp. He only spent a bit of time there and elsewhere and probably played nearly every position in practice, but that can happen.
"We've seen that in Origin plenty of times before and you've got to try and recover and get your head around the requirements for the remainder of the game and we didn't quite get our execution where it needed to be."
Teammates such as Corey Parker and Ben Te'o put their full support in Cherry-Evans' ability to step into the breach left by Cronk but Te'o did concede it may cause a change in the Maroons' attacking structure.
"I wouldn't say [losing Cronk would] disrupts [our preparation] but it might change things up," Te'o said. "DCE has been playing some good footy and he's got some bumps now that he needs to fix up but he's playing good enough footy to slot in and do a good job.
"They're different players. Cooper is very, very structured and DCE is a bit off the cuff so it might change things up a bit but if he gets his opportunity I'm sure he'll do well."
Hagan was a member of the Queensland team in 1989 that overcame a raft of injuries to record a 16-12 win inspired by Wally Lewis and one of Origin's greatest ever tries, but said the Maroons side on Wednesday night lacked the execution necessary at crucial times to come up with the killer blow.
"You just get that feeling that you might be half a yard off in a couple of things and their desperation on the line was fantastic," said Hagan, who played five Origins between 1989-90. "Laurie (Daley, NSW coach) would be delighted with the spirit and courage they showed on their line and they've been doing that the last couple of years. It's been building so that didn't come as a shock to us, that they'd be pretty desperate to get their campaign off to a good start.
"We probably missed one in the left corner with Darius [Boyd] and I think Billy [Slater] came up short there at one point but we just didn't quite have the right play at the right time, and that can happen."