There’s more chatty hacks than the back bar at the Walkleys. There’s more cameras than Kardashian instagram. State of Origin is a succubus, a vortex in space.
Throw in that very rugby league staple, The Redemption Story – and make it perhaps the greatest redemption story State of Origin has seen – and media will chase it like those snakes going after that lizard in that video, I reckon you know the one.
We’re at the NSWRL’s excellent Centre of Excellence out Homebush way in the shadows of mighty Olympic Stadium for Mitchell Pearce’s first open training session with the NSW Blues.
And in one’s best Rabby Warren, I am here to tell a man, come Wednesday night, Mitchell Pearce will absolutely kill it.
He will own it.
And he will own a State of Origin series win.
Because he is an absolute gun footy player. That’s important, being really good at footy. And Pearce is super-good, and you can wash your dear sweet mouth you think otherwise.
Accepted wisdom: He’s a good club footy player but not an Origin one.
It’s bullshit. You dominate NRL club footy, you can dominate Queensland, especially this Queensland.
This Queensland isn’t that Queensland, the greatest one there’s ever been, the one Mitchell Pearce – and everyone else bar Jarryd Hayne in excelsis – couldn’t beat either.
Those people were ridiculous.
These people are but men.
And Pearce’s time is now. And everyone knows it. The bookies have the Blues long odds on $1.38.
Old boy Maroons, in their heart of hearts, know: it’s over. The underdog thing can get you so far. Now they’re against a Blue Machine of Death. It crushed them in Perth, and that was with a halfback who only played 40 minutes.
At the helm of the super-death machine tank thing this time around will be Our Mitch: Origin Man.
Watch him: He’s tough. He takes the ball to the line; he doesn’t care if he gets hit as he passes it.
He goes to the line, and right on the line where the wild things are. he’ll shoot quality lateral pill across his body, 90 degrees, freeing up hard-chargers either side.
It’s a singular, hot bit of skill.
James Maloney does similar. Cooper Cronk, too. Johnathan Thurston did it into future Immortality. It’s body on the line stuff – take the hit, free up the runner.
Andrew Johns used to call it playing tough, playing physical.
And Andrew Johns admires Pearce for that very trait. And a few other things.
Watch him kick. His spiral torpedo bombs are abominations from space. Whoever the Maroons put at the back – and they’re battling there, because one assumes it’ll be Michael Morgan or Cameron Munster, both fine No.6s like Corey Norman – will fret underneath them like tax-dodging Don Trump.
Watch him win the fun little drills, pinging sympathetic ball for supports.
Hear him talk. Pearce’s is the dominant voice in the training drill, in defence and attack.
James Maloney’s is the other. They play on the right (Pearce) and left (Maloney). But where they’ll play on Wednesday night, could be both sides.
Consider: no-one watching any of the “open” sessions in Perth had any idea about the great Two Fullbacks Manouevre … my but that bastard’s hard to spell … Manoeuvre … that Crafty Freddy and company ripped off in in Big O #2.
But then when you think of it, having Tom Trbojevic and Jimmy Tedesco in the same team, why limit one of them to a “side” of the field? Go where you like, Turbo! Roam free like the buffalo, you great free-running beast.
Turbo killed ‘em in Perth. And Pearcey will kill ‘em in Sydney.
For as it is with Turbo, so it is with Pearce.
He’s experienced – 30 years-old is the age for a halfback.
Watch him on the paddock. He’s owning team run, owning the training paddock at Homebush.
He is The Voice. The quarterback.
He’ll be apples. He will be so many Batlow Delicious.
Pressure? Oh, you mean the pressure of playing State of Origin after playing 18 State of Origin matches without a series win?
He’s good with it. He’s 30, we may have mentioned that.
Watch him in front of the dozens of cameras here to beam the great Origin super-beast to the consumer (that’s you, cob): he’s chilled. He’s joking, self-deprecating. Not taking it too seriously. It’s a game of footy, bra.
Our Freddy can take some credit there. As can Jimmy Maloney. There’s a game face and a training one. It’s fun times here.
Yet the main reason Mitchell Pearce will be sweet Wednesday night is Queensland.
The Queensland that Pearce played against in each of those 18 Origins were the greatest rugby league teams ever assembled.
You could’ve put Joey freakin’ Johns against Smith, Cronk, Slater, Inglis and Thurston – and you’d be leaving out Boyd, Hodges, Thaiday, and a few others – and he would not have won State of Origin series.
He flat out would not have, not with the same teammates that Pearce had, excellent first graders, even Origin Players, who were rag-dolled by Inglis and treated like children.
Johns would have won parity with Thurston. But the Maroons had four other blokes among the greatest players there have ever been. No one halfback could beat those people.
But Queensland no longer possess those people.
And Pearce’s teammates now include names like Cordner, Klemmer, Cook, Maloney, Addo-Carr, Tedesco and the fabulous Brothers Trjbojevic.
And they are shit-hot. And they’re playing in Sydney and the noise for the home team will be vast. And “owning” the result will be Mitchell Pearce.
And he’ll be owning a big fat “W”.
Because Mitchell Pearce is a gun. And his time is now.