Roosters supremo Nick Politis has hit back at critics of Mitchell Pearce and urged NSW powerbrokers not to put a line through his name for future Origin matches.
The biggest talking point after the Blues’ eighth straight series loss – excepting perhaps Wati Holmwood’s streak across ANZ Stadium – is whether Pearce should be given another chance in NSW sky blue.
With yet another series on the line, the Roosters halfback failed to seize the initiative in what many are predicting will be his last interstate game. His performance and place in the team have been dissected across social media and talkback radio since full-time, with most pundits calling for his head.
However, long-serving Roosters chairman Politis, who also serves on the NSWRL board, said Pearce was an easy target and should not be ruled out of future Origin campaigns.
”He’s a champion,” Politis said. ”We’re 100 per cent behind him. He’s a great player and a great bloke. I’m sure he will be there next year. At the end of the day it’s a very close game and it’s not fair to blame ‘Pearcey’.
”They lost by two points. You can go through the whole game and find 20 ‘what ifs’ – what if this player did this or that. It’s not like they were killed. They had plenty of opportunities to take a penalty. If they did, then it could have been different.”
Before Origin III, Pearce conceded he was almost certain to be blacklisted if the Blues did not end Queensland’s winning streak.
”He’s very honest and that honesty is coming back at him,” Politis said. ”As expected, if they lost, he was going to be the one to cop it because of what he said before.”
Former Blues halfback Greg Alexander suspected those pre-game comments played on Pearce’s mind when the game was there to be won.
”He put a lot of pressure on himself by saying that if he doesn’t aim up in this one it would be the end of the section,” Alexander said.
”I thought it showed. You don’t like to criticise someone because they all gave their guts, all of them. But I thought he lost his nerve in the last 15 minutes after he turned that ball over on the grubber when they were only 10 [metres out] out.
”A couple of his decisions after that, and his execution, were off. Maybe what he said before the game got into the back of his head. He tried hard but he put a little bit too much pressure on himself with that statement.”
Roosters legend Brad Fittler, a member of the NSW coaching staff and Pearce’s former club coach, said there was no need for selectors to declare their hand given the next Origin series was almost 11 months away.
”I think Mitchell realises the situation he was in, that things didn’t go his way,” Fittler said. ”He tried hard.
”There’s a few things he’d wished he’d done better.”
Asked if the criticism of the 24-year-old was warranted, Fittler said: ”It depends on how he takes it. And who is giving it. I’m not going to sit here and bag him. He knows he didn’t have his best game
and that his position is under threat. Simple as that.”
On his Phil Gould Show – which is available in full on smh上海夜生活m.au – NSW’s most successful coach said he believed there was ”something frantic” in Pearce’s decision-making.
While Gould praised Pearce’s courage and commitment – and said he would not be surprised if the Blues hierarchy persevered with him – he said it was time for Pearce to show the control his Queensland counterparts displayed.
”There were a few occasions where he got the ball and you could see that he had half a dozen things on his mind – usually, if he gets the right one, it’s a fluke,” Gould said. ”Whether he can gather that at this stage of his career, I don’t know. I’m sure it will come with age. He’s had 12 Origin games now – you would have thought that the penny would have dropped.”
Pearce is NSW’s most capped halfback after making his 12th appearance on Wednesday night. His Maroons counterpart, Cooper Cronk, again outplayed him, and after the match the Storm star offered some kind words.
”I’m not aware of the specifics that have happened, the criticism and things like that, but Origin football is the toughest arena to play,” Cronk said.
”He’s a very good player, he’s been a part of NSW for a long time and good players are a part of Origin. It was a tough night for everyone out there.
”He’s a good player and he’ll continue on.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.