Buzz: Pearce makes Blues stronger
Buzz: Pearce makes Blues stronger

Buzz: Blues scapegoat’s chance to be the hero

They thought they had Nathan Cleary's measure but Queensland will dread Mitchell Pearce's inclusion in what is now the strongest possible NSW team for the State of Origin decider, writes PHIL ROTHFIELD.

Mitchell Pearce and Dave Klemmer should have been in the team in the first place.

One is the Dally M Medal favourite and form playmaker in the competition. The other is arguably the best front-row forward, not just in the NRL, but the world.

So Fittler gets lucky again. The best 17 players in the state are now wearing NSW jumpers.

 

Pearce deserves to be back with the Blues. Image: AAP Image/Darren Pateman
Pearce deserves to be back with the Blues. Image: AAP Image/Darren Pateman

 

Privately, the Maroons were hoping Cleary would play because they believe they have his measure.

It is a fact the Blues played their best football in two years while he was off Optus Stadium for the second half of the game two victory in Perth. The Blues won the second half 20-nil.

The original plan to play Wade Graham at five-eighth and bring Clint Gutherson onto the bench, if Cleary was ruled out, was rightfully abandoned.

Finally Freddy worked out, under that scenario, they couldn't cover for James Maloney if he was hurt during the game. There was no playmaker to replace him.

 

 

The Blues will now run onto ANZ Stadium next Wednesday night with the form halfback and five-eighth in the competition.

Plus, they have played together at the Roosters and won the 2013 grand final.

Ironically, that evening their halfback opponent was none other than Daly Cherry-Evans.

The Pearce comeback is the best rugby league story of the season.

Like the Knights, his form in the first six rounds of the season his form was dreadful.

They were flogged 38-14 by the Titans in round six. And then it all changed.

 

Nathan Cleary’s injury could be a good thing for Brad Fittler. Image: Brett Costello
Nathan Cleary’s injury could be a good thing for Brad Fittler. Image: Brett Costello

 

The 30-year-old playmaker won five lots of major points in the Dally Ms.

He not only lifted the Knights out of a form slump but well into contention for a top-four position for the finals.

Pearce could have played for the Blues earlier in the season.

Twice Fittler made inquiries about his fitness but twice he pulled out.

He told me three weeks ago: "I will never give up on wearing the NSW jersey again. I just want to make sure I'm 100 per cent fit."

He'd been through enough pain during his Origin career and wasn't prepared to risk taking the field unless he was totally fine.

No one deserves his spot in the side more than the Knights skipper.

Throughout his career in Origin he was opposed to either Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston or Cooper Cronk in side that also contained Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis.

He was unfairly made the scapegoat almost every time the Blues lost against arguably the best State of Origin side ever assembled.

Next Wednesday night is his turn.