It’s clear to all who watched Wednesday night’s Origin opener that NSW lacked attacking structure in their defeat.
Damien Cook and James Tedesco were the main threats with the ball, and if Cook didn’t break the line from dummy half, the next best option seemed to be give it to Teddy and hope he can make something out of nothing. Whilst he did for Josh Morris’ try, more cohesion needs to be seen in the attacking 20.
Looking at the current halves and Nathan Cleary was sound, as he has been for his entire Origin career, while Cody Walker failed to bring his club form into the interstate arena. He will definitely be better for the run, but being hooked with the game on the line already suggests he doesn’t have the full trust of his coach.
The problem for NSW is the lack of options, something they seemed flushed with only a month ago. Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary are injured, while James Maloney is out of form. That leaves only one alternative to the current pair.
Enter Mitchell Pearce.
I was part of the crowd wanting his papers stamped never again after failing to close the game out in 2017. I probably wanted them stamped long before that. But I am now taking those stamped papers to the shredder.
His form in 2019 has been scintillating and a string of man-of-the-match performances have led to him leading the Dally M count. He is experienced, can lead and may now finally be ready for his ultimate redemption story.
In 2010 he was finally Origin-ready after being picked too young in 2008. Queensland victory.
In 2015, he matured as a player. Queensland victory.
In 2016, he learnt from his mistake on Australia Day and actually matured as a player. Queensland victory.
Now this doesn’t make for happy reading but can a new club, a new-found responsibility, and NSW 1-0 down finally change the wave of all those previous redemption attempts?
Who would he replace?
A like-for-like replacement with Cleary, hoping Pearce can lead the team whilst also providing more attacking spark? Or swapping him with Walker, both improving the defence and allowing him to inject himself into the game? This would allow Walker to move to the bench in the No.14 jersey.
Both are viable options, as is leaving the spine as it is.
What is the right choice to make? I’m not sure. All I know is that the romantic in me would love to see Pearce part of the team lifting the trophy on July 10.