‘Selfless’ Pearce wants back in for Origin decider
With Nathan Cleary ruled out of game three, Blues boss Brad Fittler has another choice ahead of him: stick with what worked in Perth or recall a veteran desperate to taste Origin success?
Already the most polarising player in NSW Origin history - thanks largely to those seven series defeats - Pearce is suddenly a chance of being thrust into a sold out ANZ Stadium decider as a replacement for injured Blues No. 7 Nathan Cleary.
While Cronulla backrower Wade Graham is favoured for the role, there could still be a late push for the 30-year-old Newcastle captain who currently sits atop the Dally M leaderboard.
Better, a recall would see Pearce partnered with close mate and former Roosters teammate James Maloney, with whom he won the 2013 NRL premiership.
Ironically, Maloney was only brought back into the Blues side last Sunday after Pearce himself withdrew with an ongoing hip complaint.
While some critics are suggesting Pearce no longer wants any part of Origin, others reckon the decision to withdraw is why Blues coach Brad Fittler will now opt for Graham, who was outstanding when Cleary left the field in Perth.
None of which Pearce really wants to even discuss.
"I haven't acknowledged any of that (talk) because I know my intentions have been right," Pearce said. "I've said all along how it would be great to play for NSW again.
"But before Origin II, I had an injury.
"And I was honest about that. Spoke to the people who mattered.
"I had a hip strain that's been bugging me for a while - it's still sore now to be honest - and a strong cork. So I wasn't going to be able to train until late in the week.
"It wasn't the worst thing but on a short preparation, I didn't want to let anyone down. I wasn't going to play after one training session.
"So people can have their own opinions or whatever, I just didn't want to let the team down or myself down. I think that's a selfless act."
Later, Pearce added of being a spectator for Origin II: "It was hard to watch, especially when the boys had such a good win."
And as for earning a recall for the Origin decider?
"Do I think about Origin? Yeah, I do," Pearce continued. "But I'm not going to come out and make some outlandish comment.
"I'm captain of Newcastle and I play my best footy when I don't get distracted.
"I've been playing really consistent footy this year because I'm clear in my focus. I know what my role is.
"This week's game against Brisbane is a big one for our club and as captain I need to drive the standards. Then after that, I'll focus on whatever comes next.
"And if I get the opportunity to play an Origin decider alongside James Maloney, of course I'd be pumped."
Asked if the side could work with two dominant playmakers like he and Maloney, Pearce continued: "Yeah, I do.
"I've played plenty of footy with Jimmy before and it's worked.
"There are so many different styles of footy. Like the other night, NSW went with Tom Trbojevic in the centres and he played like a fullback.
"It wasn't that traditional style of 'you stay in your corridor'. So it's whatever the coaches believe is best.
"Wade Graham is a big, aggressive five-eighth … and that worked the other night too.
"Freddy got highly criticised for the decisions he made for Origin II but it was the perfect game of footy.
So I'm sure whatever Freddy's instinct is, he'll pick the side that way."