Mitchell Pearce admits he feels sorry for incumbent NSW halfback Nathan Cleary and believes the Penrith No. 7 should retain his State of Origin jersey.
Back in the conversation for the Blues halves role following a stellar month that has seen nine try assists and four tries, Pearce won’t talk up his own chances for NSW.
Instead, he would rather leap to the defence of 21-year-old Cleary.
For so long the whipping boy of NSW, Pearce is well aware of what it’s like to be brought in and out of the Origin set up.
The Newcastle halfback has been dropped from the Blues side four times in his career, including after his first series involvement in 2008.
And he doesn’t want a similar fate to await Cleary.
“I don’t think Nathan Cleary should not be there. That is my opinion,” Pearce said.
“I just think he won the series last year and there is more to footy than one player. I feel a bit sorry for him copping a lot of criticism there.
“I’m sure he would do a good job, he has got a steady game, that is probably one of his strengths.
“He doesn’t stretch himself too thin, he just has a solid game that he trusts.”
Pearce himself has played 18 Origins for five wins. Famously, he is yet to taste a series victory.
But after helping rebuild Newcastle together, coach Nathan Brown has no concerns that fact wouldn’t weigh him down if selected again.
“I don’t think there is any doubt about his resilience,” Brown said.
“A lot of these things are about style of play too. If you want someone to stand on one side of the field, if that’s the style the coach wants to play, Mitchell Pearce isn’t your player because you’re not going to get your best out of him.
“He needs to be on the ball and doing plays and plays and plays. That’s how he plays his game.
“How you’re going to play and how you want your halfback to play, all those things come into it.”