SportThe real reason Mitchell Pearce pulled out of Origin II
State of Origin: Latrell Mitchell could be a distraction for Blues, says Phil Gould
Gould believes picking Latrell could be a risky move.
Earlier this week, one of the students at the private school in Perth where the Blues have set up camp for Origin II, nudged his mate standing next to him.
"See that guy there," the student, resplendent in dark blue blazer and tie, said with authority as he waved a finger towards the field. "That’s Mitchell Pearce."
Actually, it was James Maloney.
The reason why it was Maloney and not Pearce is because Pearce had selflessly ruled himself out of Sunday night's must-win match against Queensland.
Maloney: how Freddy sacked me from Blues
James Maloney has detailed how he was axed as NSW Origin five-eighth, as calls grow louder for him to earn a recall.
The reason proffered was injury. It can now be revealed that there was a little more to it.
Pearce's withdrawal had as much to do with him being asked to wear the No.6 jumper instead of No.7, which has been retained by Nathan Cleary.
Pearce, who plays halfback for Newcastle, had been pencilled into the Blues’ side before taking the field against the Storm at AAMI Park last Saturday afternoon.
In the lead-up to the match, he’d been told that if he did play he’d be playing as he has been for the Knights in recent months — on the ball, calling the shots, on both sides of the field.
The result of Newcastle coach Nathan Brown using Pearce in this way has been there for all to see: Pearce has been in career-best form, tearing away at the top of the Dally M leaderboard.
State of Origin: Mitchell Pearce ruled out of Origin return with injury
On Sunday morning, Pearce went from firm Origin hopeful to injury doubtful. In career-best form for Newcastle, the halfback has been cruelly denied a shot at adding a 19th Origin cap to his name. require(["inlineoutstreamAd", "c.
Then, after the loss to Melbourne, the narrative suddenly changed.
He was told he had been selected but he wouldn’t be playing halfback. Cleary would stay at seven with Pearce at six with the pair of them playing each side of the ruck.
He wasn’t concerned about the number on his back — it means nothing these days — but how he was going to be used.
When Pearce woke up in Melbourne the next morning, he immediately felt the aches and swelling in his groin and hip. He’d suffered the injury against the Roosters last month and now, after copping a knock in the first half against the Storm, it had flared again.
The verdict from the Knights medical staff was clear: he wouldn’t have been able to train with the Blues until Wednesday, possibly Thursday.
Given the short turnaround for this Origin because it’s being played on a Sunday night, it meant he’d have only two field sessions in a new team, with a young half he’s never played with, in a match that needed to be won to force the series into a game-three decider in Sydney.
Tahu to be sacked over anthem boycott claims
The former Origin star will cop the wrath of the NSWRL after comments about the axing of Indigenous stars Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker.
So, with very little to win and everything to lose, Pearce ruled himself out. The haste at which he went from being the potential savour to watching from the couch surprised a few people within the Blues camp.
The easy response to all this is it'd never happen to Queensland. We’d play with a broken arm, in any jumper, in any position, if we had to. Blah blah blah.
This is different. This was a brave and selfless call from Pearce, who feels a debt of gratitude to the Knights for the way they've embraced him.
He loves his state. He’s bled for it. He’s been brutalised by the public and press for the way he’s failed to meet their expectations since making his debut as a teenager in 2008.
Knowing that to play in this match would be a mistake, on several fronts, he handed the jumper over to Maloney — because it was the right thing to do.
One person who was certainly against the Pearce-Cleary pairing was Fox Sports expert Michael Ennis, who last week publicly slammed the idea as "absolutely crazy" just days before the team was named.
"I can’t see why going into such a contest where we have to win the game," Ennis said. "If Mitchell is in the side absolutely I have no problem with that.
'Blackfellas can't say what they want': Anthony Mundine backs State of Origin legend's claim
Rugby league great Timana Tahu - who is employed to help develop future NSW Blues players - claimed Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker's refusal to sing the anthem cost them their spots.
"I think he completely deserves his opportunity. He is the form halfback for NSW, but Mitchell the way he is playing he needs to play that same way for NSW, which is on the ball.
"Where does Nathan Cleary go when that happens? Isn’t that his job? He’s a halfback."
As we’ve written in this space before, Ennis’ unfiltered views are fearless and refreshing. Former players rarely speak so candidly.
But we can tell you the remarks went down like a schooner of nails with the Blues because Ennis is on the NSWRL payroll as coach of the under-18s side that was hammered by Queensland in the curtain raiser to game one.
Blue sky thinking
The NSWRL's decision to play in an alternative jersey in this Origin has divided opinion among former players.
In a move away from the traditional sky blue, NSW players will take the field in a dark blue jumper with sky-blue chevrons.
Some have slammed the idea as nothing more than a marketing ploy. Others fear we could be a modern-day "Changa Langlands" scenario after he played the 1975 grand final for St George in white boots. The Dragons lost 38-0 and Langlands played the worst game of his life because a painkilling injection had made his leg completely numb.
But the NSWRL insists that it's been done for no other reason than to acknowledge the special occasion of an Origin being played in a foreign market.
Comment: State of Origin II in Perth between NSW and Queensland set to live up to blockbuster billing
It's Perth's first taste of what is a truly national phenomenon, and State of Origin II promises not to disappoint fans in the west with all its traditional storylines, writes Richard Hinds.
Rabbits in the headlights
The voice of State of Origin - Channel Nine caller Ray Warren - is so nervous about flying that he considered taking the two-day train trip from Sydney to Perth for Origin II.
It’s a well-known fact that "Rabbits" hates planes, so much so that he opted out of calling at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 while working for Network Ten.
In the end, he decided to fly to Perth earlier in the week to give himself several days to get over the trauma of flying five hours in business class. This will be Warren’s 92nd Origin call.
Meanwhile, the fans are pouring into Perth as we speak. More than 20,000 people from interstate will attend the match at Optus Stadium.
No deal on the table for Latrell... yet
The Bulldogs are adamant they haven’t tabled a mega-deal for Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell — but understand that people connected to their club will make offers on their behalf.
As revealed by the Herald, an intermediary has approached Mitchell’s father, Matt, about his son coming to Belmore on a five-year deal worth more than $5 million.
Other reports suggest the Dogs are prepared to pay $11 million over 10 years, which sounds like a ludicrously blind show of faith in a talented player but one who lacks motivation at times.
The Roosters aren’t the least surprised about the interest and the speculation about their troubled superstar, who was dumped for Origin II.
People have been getting in his ear for months about not being on enough money, about his next contract from 2021 needing to resemble a telephone number, about him not being loved.
Roosters chairman Nick Politis values loyalty and won’t be paying silly amounts to keep Mitchell, as much as the club wants him to stay.
‘Selfless’ Mitchell Pearce shoots down Origin II conspiracy theory.
Pearce was certain to be selected in the Blues squad for Origin II but ruled himself out due to injury on the day the team was announced.
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