Critics fuel Cherry-Evans' fire
Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans has admitted that he used the criticism of former Queensland legend Gorden Tallis to fuel his superb performance against the Titans on Saturday night and that there will always be ill feeling between he and the Gold Coast club.
After the events of two years ago when Cherry-Evans famously back-flipped on a four-year deal to become the marquee man at the Titans, the Manly captain has received special attention from local fans and this week copped both barrels from Tallis, a Titans ambassador and one of Queensland's greatest State of Origin players.
Speaking on Fox League on Thursday night, Tallis said that Cherry-Evans "has always failed" when promoted into the Queensland team and that the way he handled his negotiations with the Titans put a number of former Maroons off-side, comments that gave Cherry-Evans extra motivation less than 48 hours from the naming of the Queensland team for Origin I.
"I guess so. To be honest, yeah," Cherry-Evans said when asked whether the comments had helped to inspire a performance that saw him finish with three line-break assists, one try assist and prominent involvement in two further tries.
"I like exceeding expectations so tonight was a great team performance and I was able to play well within that.
"I guess off the back of a few snide remarks it was really good to play well.
"I can guarantee you everyone in this NRL competition at some stage faces adversity and adversity comes in different ways but I'm a professional athlete, I'm a professional rugby league player, my role is to play well every week and I try and do that.
"If there are incentives out there to play better then that definitely does help."
As was the case when he lined up against the Titans just weeks after exercising his right to stay with Manly rather than honouring an agreement to join Gold Coast, Cherry-Evans was the subject of plenty of heckling from Titans fans on Saturday night, a relationship that he doesn't ever expect to be any different in future.
"There will never be water under the bridge, and that's okay with me," the six-time Origin representative said.
"I understand the situation that I caused for myself but I'm lucky I've got a really strong bunch of teammates in there that help me through it and they made what possibly could have been a really unpleasant visit a very pleasant visit."
Cherry-Evans described his desire to play for Queensland again as "a goal but not a priority" leaving Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett to push his case for selection as either back-up for Johnathan Thurston or to reclaim his place as the utility option on the bench.
"I think he should be there," was Barrett's frank summation.
"You look at everything that all the halfbacks have done this year and he's done equal if not better than a lot of them."
If Thurston recovers from his shoulder injury to take his place for Queensland in Game One the battle between Cherry-Evans, Michael Morgan, Anthony Milford and Cameron Munster for a position that doesn't exist could prove to be over as quick as it is hotly contested.
Since making his Origin debut in Game One in 2015, Morgan has been the Mr Fix-It of choice for the Maroons and after a quiet start to 2017 his performances for the Cowboys over the past fortnight would make him the strong favourite to be at least named in the No.14 jersey as the backs utility when the team is announced on Monday.