NSW selectors’ credibility on the line with Mitchell Pearce

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, this is not a recycled piece. You may look at the headline and surmise that The Roar is malfunctioning and serving up articles from 2015 – or earlier – but it’s really not.

    Instead, we’re once again staring down the barrel of a State of Origin series in which NSW selectors are leaning towards selecting Mitchell Pearce in the halves.

    The phrase déjà vu comes to mind quite seamlessly in this circumstance.

    Cynical NSW fans (is there another kind?) will be feeling like they’ve seen this horror movie already, and know how it ends. Pearce has played 15 Origins for NSW since 2008 and played in exactly zero winning series. In his last match for the Blues in 2015, the team lost the deciding match at Suncorp Stadium by a truly embarrassing margin of 52-6.

    That’s a record that does not make for pleasant reading. Unless you’re a Queenslander.

    As ever, the fate of a team does not rest on one player’s shoulders, nor should poor results.

    By the same token, Pearce is yet to take an Origin series by the scruff of the neck and display the potential he shows at club level. At some point, when the sample size is large enough, a player’s file should be marked with the damning judgment that he can’t step up to the next level.

    Pearce’s credibility is not on the line if he is selected. The vast majority of fans have made their mind up that he isn’t an Origin player, and should he once again fail I doubt it will be held against him. At this point, it’s not on him.

    The people whose credibility will really be under the microscope will be the NSW selectors. Given the history and the background, if they decide to pick Pearce and he disappoints, they will look like complete and utter idiots.

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    They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Though it’s a saying used to the point of saturation, it’s fairly apt here, because the risk the selectors take in picking Pearce is that they’re perceived to be ignoring history; always a dangerous and stupid thing to do.

    You can already imagine the fall out – not to mention the headlines – if NSW pick Pearce, he plays badly, and they lose. Yet that is the gamble the selectors seem willing to take.

    In their defence, there isn’t exactly a lot of competition for the Blues’ halfback jersey. It’s not like Joey Johns, Ricky Stuart, Peter Sterling or Steve Mortimer are running around in their primes. Heck, I’m sure the Blues would settle for John Simon or Jason Taylor at this point.

    Furthermore, Pearce is playing good football for the Roosters and has been chiefly responsible for a number of their wins this year. He’s definitely a different player to the one that was first selected in 2008, and at 27 years of age he should be just entering his prime.

    Additionally, after a string of off-field incidents, he appears to have cleaned up his act, with evidence to suggest he has matured greatly in the last 18 months alone.

    So there is certainly some merit in once again giving him a chance to lead NSW to a series victory.

    Yet to continue on with the ‘doing the same thing over and over again’ narrative, if chosen, Pearce has to mix things up. For the Blues, he’s been a shadow of the player he is for the Roosters. If given the opportunity to re-write his Origin career, he needs to do the things that make him good at club level; take on the line, bark orders at his teammates, and be the leader of the team.

    He can’t be meek. He can’t be conservative. He can’t think anything else but “I’ve got nothing to lose, so I’m going to roll the dice.”

    Mitchell Pearce. (Action Photographics, Renee McKay)

    (Action Photographics, Renee McKay)

    Though there is certainly a school of thought that he should simply be a complementary player and fulfil a role, given his baggage, he doesn’t have that luxury. The image of him standing around after a game, thinking he should have tried something is one I can’t even contemplate at present. He needs to be the reason NSW win.

    So, would I pick Pearce for Origin I?

    I wouldn’t. Yet possibly not for the reasoning you’d think.

    It’s not that I don’t believe he deserves it this season, because he does. I wouldn’t pick Mitchell Pearce because Queensland ‘grow a leg’ when NSW select him. Their confidence increases when they see his name on the run-on sheet.

    Combine that with the fact the Maroons have long memories and haven’t forgotten Pearce sledging Johnathan Thurston for being too old in Game 2 in 2015, and they’ll be motivated to rub his nose in it. Just like they did in Game 3 that year, the aforementioned massacre.

    Confidence and motivation? Not exactly the two qualities you want to be giving your opposition.

    I’d pick Matt Moylan. However, that’s hardly done without any fear, so I’ll put it in writing that I’d have no issue at all if the selectors do pick Pearce. As I said, he deserves it.

    It also means I can possibly recycle an old article or two.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (114)

    • May 16th 2017 @ 5:59am
      FrozenNorth said | May 16th 2017 @ 5:59am | ! Report

      I realise no one else is putting their hand up but jesus H, HOW MANY TIMES did Pearce kick straight down slater’s throat or fail to earn a repeat set.

      His kicking game at origin level has been the issue, it was ABYSMAL, absolutely abysmal.

      • May 16th 2017 @ 7:19am
        The eye said | May 16th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

        There is no greater significant difference between the sides than that..repeat sets are gold and history shows when the pressure is turned up Mitch cant get them..wont get fooled again.

        If Reynolds goes well this weekend,a dress rehearsal, I’d go with him..if not…………….option B Wade Graham and the Sharks/Penrith game plan of a month ago..fump the tripe out of the opposing 6..

      • May 16th 2017 @ 8:04am
        Benny said | May 16th 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

        In regard to the kicking game, he actually never really had a good one at club level either until really the last year and a half. Before that he would never get repeat sets. He’s much improved in that regard now, let’s see if he can translate it to the origin arena

      • July 16th 2017 @ 11:11pm
        Hodgo said | July 16th 2017 @ 11:11pm | ! Report

        Gotta love this comment – talk about being able to recycle what you have already written. Pearce once again proves himself to be the albatross around NSW neck.

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2017 @ 6:05am
      eagleJack said | May 16th 2017 @ 6:05am | ! Report

      Queensland grow a leg with whoever is picked at 7. It’s not exactly a position we are flush with talent. I had Reynolds pencilled in from the beginning of the year. But furiously rubbed him out after he has gone from one terrible performance to the next in 2017. His game against Manly 2 rounds ago should have resulted in him being sacked from first grade.

      I have always liked Pearce. And even more so in 2017. The “incident” last year would have destroyed many players. The media scrutiny was intense. But he went away, and made significant changes in his life. He has come back a better player. I’ve been impressed by his short kicking game, and attitude when taking on the line.

      I’d love to see a guy like Cleary get a shot but it’s too early. Of course the same latitude was never given to Pearce who played for the Blues at 19 and has been blamed for their losses ever since.

      ROC your selection is to put Moylan in there? The same guy who has played below average from fullback in 2017?? You want him at 7? Cause he’ll suddenly become a ball player when thrown into the cauldron? Ok.

      Pearce and Maloney know each other’s games. Keep it simple. Win the battle in the midddle then spread it wide. Neither are Cronk or Thurston. No one is. They are once in a generation players. I’d love for the state to get behind our halves. That’s what QLD would do. And the players feed off the support.

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2017 @ 7:59am
        Magnus M. Østergaard said | May 16th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        Pearce cops a lot of criticism in Origin because in his 15 or so Origins he has forced something like 1 line drop out. HE has also had more chances than every other Origin half. In the decade of dominance Pearce is the only half to have played more than half a dozen games.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 16th 2017 @ 8:24am
        Don said | May 16th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

        I think people discount the value of a hooker who gives clean fast passes to the halve’s hands.

        Sure, Pearce has never shone at Origin level but go back and look at some of the passes he has received in pressure situations when looking for a repeat set. He’s had Farah taking a long look then putting the ball above, behind or, beneath him. Or, he’s had Ennis trying to prove he deserves a spot ahead of Farah and overplaying his hand as well.

        Couple all that with the fact Pearce is not a kicker who nails his kicks in traffic. He is adequate with some space and time.

        Pick Peter Wallace at hooker if you are going to play Pearce. He’s a great kicker from dummy half so everyone is always onside, he puts the ball in front of his runners and is absolutely unselfish. If there is room outside him the ball goes there. He doesn’t delay while looking for his own options.

        Then again, I’d pick Maloney at hall and play Jack Bird at 5/8 in the Shaun Timmons style.

        As a Qlder though, please pick Pearce and Farah and pray Aaron Woods recovers fast!

        • May 16th 2017 @ 8:46am
          Oingo Boingo said | May 16th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          @ Don ..
          You add Gallen overcalling him , taking the ball to ground with options available and putting the refs offside with NSW , Bird giving away penalties when NSW are on top and the blame can hardly be laid at Pearce’s feet .
          For me the bigger issue here is , if Farah gets picked , ( if Wikipedia is to believed, Farah has been their 16 times ) and puts the brakes on the half and 5/8 .
          Yes he was there in 2014 ,but Cronk wasn’t .
          I’d prefer to see Pearce left at the Roosters for the SOO period ,but as it has been pointed out above , what choice do NSW have .
          And to suggest that Pearce in someway offers the magic pill of motivation to QLD is just plain rubbish Ryan , they’ve won plenty when he wasn’t in the team .

          • May 16th 2017 @ 9:02am
            souvalis said | May 16th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

            No,shifting the blame to other players for the halfbacks inability to do the job he was selected to do is rubbish…kicking to find the ground and more importantly to get repeat sets..Mitch belongs in club football,so yes leave him there for the next couple of months..

          • Columnist

            May 16th 2017 @ 12:15pm
            Ryan O'Connell said | May 16th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

            Oingo, Queensland – and Thurston in particular – are on a record as saying Pearce motivated them. So if it’s rubbish, then take it up with the Maroons.

            • May 16th 2017 @ 12:34pm
              Oingo Boingo said | May 16th 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

              Just as well he gobbed off then , otherwise NSW may have won the last couple .

              • Columnist

                May 16th 2017 @ 12:39pm
                Ryan O'Connell said | May 16th 2017 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

                Yes, giving a team that is already better than you, added motivation, is a very smart strategy.

                Much smarter than preying on some potential complacency.

      • Columnist

        May 16th 2017 @ 12:12pm
        Ryan O'Connell said | May 16th 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

        An imperfect selection for an imperfect scenarios, EagleJack!

        And as mentioned, I’d have no issue if Pearce gets picked, and hope he does well. But geez, how silly will selectors and supports look if he doesn’t play well again?

      • May 16th 2017 @ 1:43pm
        MonkeyMayes said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

        Thanks for being a rational voice here eagle-jack.

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2017 @ 7:39am
      The Barry said | May 16th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      I feel ill.

      When you look closely at it Pearce is close to the only in form halfback for NSW.

      I had Moylan and Maloney pencilled in at the start of the season. I’d been vocal against picking Moylan at 6 for the blues when he’d not played NRL there.

      But I thought he went well there in origin 3 last year. However it was a dead rubber and Moylans form has been well down this year.

      Who else? Reynolds is out of form and horribly inconsistent. A massive punt on Townsend? He’s a Pearce style player, just not as good.

      Burn Cleary like we did Mullen, Pearce and Wallace?

      Brooks? Sezer? Frawley? Elgey? McCrone? Hodkinson from reserve grade? Pffft. The cupboards are bare.

      I hate to say it, but as bad as Pearce’s selection is, it makes more sense than any other.

      I feel ill.

      • May 16th 2017 @ 9:03am
        Dom said | May 16th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        I was never a fan of Pearce in the old days but he’s clearly our best No.7 now, while Maloney is a winner and slots in at 6. Simple. The Blues have some stars in the outside backs and our pack is better than the Maroons’.

        We’re still the underdogs but we’re in with a chance. No need to feel ill.

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2017 @ 1:03pm
          Magnus M. Østergaard said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

          Hahaha what are you smoking? Queensland are always the underdogs! FACT!

      • May 16th 2017 @ 1:49pm
        Elias Sleiman said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

        Chad Townsend is better and would fit perfectly in with Maloney and Fifita

      • May 16th 2017 @ 1:49pm
        Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | May 16th 2017 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

        What about Maloney’s mate at the Sharks – Chad Townsend? He and Maloney have been playing together for a couple of seasons so they should know how to work together.

        Townsend had 13 try assists last year and 4 so far this season compared with 6 for Pearce. Townsend might not be a worldbeater but he’d form a solid combination with Maloney.

        PS – just saw that ES had the same comment at precisley the same time. I think this combination could work and Townsend doesn’t carry any scars like Pearce does

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2017 @ 7:50am
      Magnus M. Østergaard said | May 16th 2017 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      Man I feel really bad for NSW who are stronger in every position except for 1, 6, 7 & 9 which so happen to be the most important positions.

      • May 16th 2017 @ 8:22am
        jamesb said | May 16th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        NSW does have options at 1 and 6. At fullback you have Teddy, Dugan, Hayne, T.Trbojevic (injured), and Moylan. At 6, you have Maloney, but his back ups are J.Reynolds, Austin or you could shift Moylan and Hayne.

        But when it comes to 7 and 9, there’s hardly any options.

    • May 16th 2017 @ 7:52am
      bear54 said | May 16th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      Pearce’s final tackle options are awful. They smack of someone who made their mind up three tackles before and continuse with the plan regardless of what he see in front of him. He’s not instinctive enough for an Origin player.

      Give me Adam Reynolds combined with James Maloney. Both have excellent kicking games and play on instinct. Yes, they aren’t great when the forwards aren’t on top but show me a NSW half since Johns or Kimmorley who is and it certainly isn’t Pearce.

      If Mitchell Pearce is selected with Robbie Farah I don’t think I can watch….. although I probably will….. with my hands over my eyes.

      • May 16th 2017 @ 7:21pm
        Pickett said | May 16th 2017 @ 7:21pm | ! Report

        Tell me you’re joking.
        @Origin level, he makes Pearce look like Wally.

    • May 16th 2017 @ 8:36am
      The eye said | May 16th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      Like to see both Hayne and Graham in the starting side and one or the other at 6 with Maloney in preference to the current crop who are all inferior players.

      • May 16th 2017 @ 5:43pm
        Eden said | May 16th 2017 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

        Yeah Hayne and Maloney in the halves please. Given the psychological aspect everyone talks about why not ask who Qlders would least like to see at 6 and 7? Cleary the two players who have consistently upset their defensive line.

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