Queensland stars prove the doubters wrong
Two of the biggest talking points leading into Wednesday night's Holden State of Origin series opener were how would Cooper Cronk's ankle hold up to the rigours of interstate warfare, and how would Darius Boyd go in his first game at fullback for the Maroons.
Following Queensland's 6-4 victory over the Blues, it's safe to say that both those 'concerns' were quickly forgotten as the Maroons veterans put in typically stellar showings.
Cronk's ankle became the biggest talking point in the build-up to the game, with many questioning whether the Maroons halfback was actually injured or not.
A close-up shot of his heavily bruised foot in the pre-game coverage dispelled any doubts before the match had even kicked off, prompting those 'doubters' to then question whether he was fit enough to have an impact on the contest.
The superstar Storm No.7 has had better games at this level, but his mere presence on the field seemed to be all his teammates needed. Cronk has been Queensland's talisman over the years, losing just four of his 17 games for his state and never looked like adding to that tally in the series opener.
Maroons coach Kevin Walters was perplexed as to why there was so much disbelief surrounding his playmaker's condition and was immensely proud to see him produce yet another accomplished 80-minute performance.
"A lot of the media thought we were foxing with Cooper, but we certainly weren't," Walters said after the match.
"If you would have seen his ankle on Friday when he rolled it – and the look on his face – Cooper is an honest person and he knows when he's right and when he's not right to play.
"When we got the news that he'd be able to play yesterday afternoon, it sort of lifted the mood of the whole place.
"He's such an important part – they all are, every member of the squad is really important to the make-up of this team – and we were very fortunate to have him available for tonight."
While Cronk's fitness had been heavily scrutinised, it was Darius Boyd's ability to make the transition to fullback that was put under the microscope heading into Game One.
With regular custodian Billy Slater out through injury, Boyd beat out South Sydney superstar Greg Inglis to the No.1 jersey in what was his first game for the Maroons at the back.
The Broncos fullback has been one of Queensland's most consistent performers with 16 tries in 23 appearances on the wing, and not only handled the pressure of the new role but he seemed to relish it.
Maroons skipper Cameron Smith described his teammate's performance as "fantastic" as Boyd produced an error-free effort on the game's biggest stage.
"I think he's shown everyone the class of the fullback that he is," a proud Maroons skipper said after the game.
"We spoke about Billy not being there and what he brought to the team. We certainly didn't ask Darius to be Billy. We wanted Darius to be Darius, but there was certainly a void there that we had to fill.
"He's been a very, very good footballer for a very long time. He's just been stuck behind some very, very good players in Billy Slater and Greg Inglis as well.
"He had the opportunity tonight to show what he's got and I thought he did a fantastic job. I thought he was one of our better players tonight."