BEWARE the smiling assassin.
That was the message from within the Queensland Origin camp yesterday after Darius Boyd’s spectacular return to form in Wednesday’s series-opening triumph against NSW.
Regarded by many as the biggest signing in Newcastle’s history, Boyd has struggled to put his best foot forward since moving from St George Illawarra at the end of last season.
The pressure appeared to be taking its toll on the 24-year-old earlier this month when he broke down at half-time in a loss to Sydney Roosters and had to be consoled by Knights coach Wayne Bennett.
But Boyd’s tears were a distant memory at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night, when he flashed over for two first-half tries that set up Queensland’s 18-10 victory.
His beaming grin after scoring would suggest any demons had been officially exorcised.
Queensland assistant coach Michael Hagan said yesterday the confidence Boyd gained would stand him in good stead when he returns to club duties against Gold Coast at Hunter Stadium tomorrow.
‘‘Origin can be a very good catalyst for some players,’’ Hagan said.
‘‘If they’re down a touch on form or confidence, they get in that pretty comfortable environment alongside guys they’ve played a fair bit of footy with and they tend to respond positively to that.’’
In his 10 games for Newcastle, Boyd is yet to score a try and has made only one line break.
But the real Darius Boyd – the man who has nine Tests, 12 Origins, grand final wins with Brisbane (2006) and the Dragons (2010), and his Clive Churchill Medal to his name – stood tall against NSW.
Playing on the end of arguably the greatest back line in history gave Boyd a chance to remind everyone that he is one of the NRL’s elite performers.
Hagan said Queensland coach Mal Meninga believed strongly in showing loyalty to proven players, and Boyd reimbursed him, with interest, on Wednesday.
‘‘I know Mal puts quite a lot of value in past deeds, and I think the players repay that,’’ Hagan said.
‘‘Darius was a good example last night.
‘‘He appreciated being brought in for what he has contributed in the past, and he didn’t let the team down.
‘‘If anything, he enhanced it.’’
With four wins from their first 10 games, the Knights are languishing in 10th rung on the competition ladder.
In their most recent outing, against North Queensland 13 days ago, the Knights were hammered 32-12 but Boyd racked up an impressive 201 attacking metres, indicating he had turned the corner.
Hagan said that, on paper at least, Newcastle had one of the best back threes in the competition in Boyd, Test teammate Akuila Uate and former NSW Origin representative James McManus.
‘‘I look at Newcastle’s back three and there’s a lot of experience and talent there,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s not just up to Darius.
‘‘I think those three guys could spark their team, with a little bit more quality from kick reception, for example.
‘‘I don’t think it would take a lot to get that positive fallback for him and the team.’’
Boyd and Uate, who directly opposed each other on Wednesday night, both flew back to Newcastle yesterday and are expected to join their teammates at training today.