The New South Wales Blues have been forced into a late Origin change on Wednesday afternoon with incumbent half Nathan Cleary set to be replaced by Mitchell Pearce after failing to pass fitness on an ankle injury.
Cleary, who injured his ankle during Game 2 and failed to play in the second half of the Blues big win, was always a long shot to take part in Game 3 despite all the positive news which was flowing out of the Blues camp.
It paves the way for Mitchell Pearce, who was talked about as an option for the first two games, but was ruled out of both games himself with injury, to be rushed into camp.
Pearce’s selection, while coming from his form, was always a case of last man standing, with Luke Keary and Adam Reynolds also out injured, while Cody Walker was dropped after a sub-standard performance in the series opener, which the Blues lost in Brisbane.
New South Wales were hopeful of being able to use the same halves pairing that rolled to the big victory over the Maroons in Perth as James Maloney played alongside Cleary in place of Walker, however, it was always overly optimistic to expect Cleary to clear his injury.
Pearce has played 18 games for the Blues during a much-maligned representative career, and while his form has been undeniably good at club level for the Newcastle Knights, the Blues didn’t lose him during last year’s series, which was their first win since 2014, which Pearce also sat on the sidelines for.
Around that, Pearce made his debut in 2008, but played heavy parts in the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017 series, all of which New South Wales lost.
Pearce’s overall record in the Origin arena reads a less than promising 13 losses from those 18 games, and the decider in Sydney next Wednesday shapes up as a chance for redemption for Pearce.