Daly Cherry-Evans says the Maroons are determined to have the last laugh on former Blues skipper Paul Gallen after he claimed they were the worst team in 40 years of Origin history.
Gallen, speaking on Channel Nine's Sports Sunday, said the unwanted tag was fair and the Maroons did not have "anywhere near the ability of the Blues".
The Maroons lost game two 34-10 in Sydney after winning 18-14 in Adelaide and will blood at least two more debutants in the Ampol State of Origin series decider in Brisbane on Wednesday night with Corey Allan and Harry Grant getting call-ups.
Cherry-Evans was asked on Monday whether he took Gallen’s criticism personally. "A little bit, yeah of course," he replied.
"I played a bit of footy with Gal, he is a tough opponent and I enjoyed playing alongside Gal and watching him play.
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 3 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
"But he works in the media now and his job is to heighten the hype. He doesn’t have to do footy anymore.
"He has to sell the product and he is doing a good job of selling the product. We’d love to have the last laugh."
Cherry-Evans said winger Xavier Coates was battling a lower leg injury but expected him to train on Tuesday.
Coach Wayne Bennett may yet bring centre Brenko Lee into the team and push Dane Gagai out to the wing after the Storm premiership winner recovered from a calf injury which kept him out of the opening two matches of the series.
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"He joined the squad yesterday and got out pretty much all the session which was really good for him," Cherry-Evans said.
"It’s been nice to have him back in the side. He prepared for us the whole of week one. We picked straight back up there with Brenko. He is looking sharp."
The Maroons captain did not expect the enormity of the occasion to overawe the debutants.
"It’s a big occasion but that won’t take away from the fact they’re excited to play their debuts," he said.
"It’s not for them to worry about the stakes of it all. They’ve been picked for a reason. They just need to go out there and play their best footy.
"At the end of their first Origin game it might be a series win. I’m excited for the young fellas. It’s going to give us a real spark.
"We’ve all seen what Harry’s done this season. I’m looking forward to having his injection in the game."
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Cherry-Evans has also explained what was on his mind when he was having words with Tino Fa'asuamaleaui in the sheds in Sydney after the lock was sin-binned following a wrangle with Blues prop Payne Haas.
"I’ve got his back," Cherry-Evans said.
"I had a couple of words of support. I’m sure he would have copped a lot of criticism publicly.
"I do want to make sure I encourage players to play their best game. We need to play our best games on Wednesday night and Tino will be a big part of that.
"If we can keep him out there for a bit longer that would be ideal but at the end of the day, what he did wasn’t the wrong thing.
"It was what he thought was best at the time. There’s not too much to it. I was backing him."
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The Maroons must be better in all departments to beat the Blues despite having the support of a sell-out home crowd.
"The ball’s back in our court now," Cherry-Evans said.
"I feel like tactically there’s definitely got to be some changes but between the ears we need to be better. I spoke about lacking that 10 per cent. We need to bring our best footy.
"It will be nice to flip the tables when it comes to crowd size this week and what we’re going to have it in our corner.
"It’s up to us to give them something to cheer for."
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