Mitchell Pearce will replace Nathan Cleary in the Origin decider next week.
Mitchell Pearce will replace Nathan Cleary in the Origin decider next week.

Origin bombshell! Cleary out, Pearce in

Nathan Cleary will not play in Origin III after succumbing to an ankle injury and the Blues will return to Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce as his replacement.

Pearce is on his way to Sydney to join the Blues after Cleary's bold bid to be fit failed.

Cleary worked extensively to recover from a badly bruised ankle, suffered in the first half of the Blues' 38-6 game two victory over Queensland in Perth a fortnight ago.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 21: Mitchell Pearce of the Blues looks dejected during game two of the State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at ANZ Stadium on June 21, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 21: Mitchell Pearce of the Blues looks dejected during game two of the State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at ANZ Stadium on June 21, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The NSW medical staff had no option but to call in Pearce after it became apparent Cleary would not be ready in time.

It is a remarkable return to the State of Origin arena for Pearce, a much-maligned player at this level.

"Pearce will be in camp tonight," NSW coach Brad Fittler said.

"Nathan Cleary is out."

Cleary tested his ankle for the first time on Wednesday during a secret running session at Moore Park.

Under the watch of NSW head trainer Hayden Knowles and team physiotherapist Liz Steet, Cleary ran on an anti-gravity treadmill at the Roosters headquarters just before midday.

Referred to as an Alter-G, the treadmill allows athletes to move unrestricted and pain-free.

Back at the Blues team hotel in Bondi, the NSW coaching staff anxiously waited to hear how Cleary had pulled through his fitness test.

Cleary battle for fitness has failed. AAP Image/Richard Wainwright.
Cleary battle for fitness has failed. AAP Image/Richard Wainwright.

Pearce, 30, played the last of his 18 games for NSW in the 2017 series, which the Blues lost 2-1 to Queensland.

The Newcastle Knights star had been in the frame for the opening two games of the series, but withdrew both times because of injury.

He will reunite with former Sydney Roosters and NSW teammate James Maloney in the Blues halves.