Blues gamble on teenage halfback - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Blues gamble on teenage halfback

24/06/2008 09:21:25 AM Comments (0)

NSW coach Craig Bellamy says teenager Mitchell Pearce's elevation to State of Origin halfback has come sooner than expected but he has full faith in him to direct the Blues in next week's series decider at ANZ Stadium.

Pearce, the 19-year-old son of former Blues great and coach Wayne Pearce, was on Tuesday named to make his Origin debut in the No.7 jersey, alongside Sydney Roosters team-mate Braith Anasta who gained a recall.

The Roosters pair are two of five changes to the NSW side which lost 30-0 in Origin II in Brisbane with Origin I stars Ben Cross and Jarryd Hayne also recalled while Canberra's Joel Monaghan was picked for his debut in place of injured centre Mark Gasnier (back).

Anasta and Pearce replace injured combination Greg Bird (knee) and Peter Wallace (groin) while prop Cross replaces Newcastle team-mate Steve Simpson on the bench and Hayne comes back on the wing in place of Steve Turner.

Blues selectors made only a minor change to the starting forward pack which was mauled in Brisbane, with Willie Mason shifted up to prop and Craig Fitzgibbon reverting to the second row.

It is a strong show of faith by NSW selectors with most of the changes either recalling players who did the job in Origin I or forced through injury.

Bellamy is confident the Blues have picked a side he believes can do the job on Wednesday week and reclaim the series title for the first time since 2005.

He says the Roosters halves partnership is a bonus for the Blues, but insists both Pearce and Anasta would have won selection had they played for separate NRL clubs.

"It's obviously a pretty early promotion I suppose into this level of footy for him," said Bellamy of Pearce.

"He has been under the spotlight from us for a little bit.

"It's a bit of a bonus for us if they've both played for the same club.

"If they played for separate clubs they would be in the team in the same circumstances."

Anasta's recall - he was dumped after the opening two losses last year - comes after some great club form and Bellamy says NSW will be looking to the 26-year-old to carry those performances into the rep arena.

"I'm sure he will fit (into the team) fine. I imagine he will be happy to be there," said Bellamy of Anasta.

"He was very unlucky to miss out in those first two games."

Bellamy said Brisbane young gun Wallace was not considered as it would have been too tough on the 22-year-old to play after having surgery on a ruptured testicle only days after the Origin II loss.

"There were still some dangers that if we had trained him this week and played that was too big an ask," said Bellamy.

"Wall is a tough kid but it's just that there's too many risks after talking to the specialists."

Meanwhile the lack of changes to the Blues pack, only a positional switch and the recall of Origin I debutant Cross, has handed NSW's highly criticised Origin II forwards a chance at redemption.

"We tried to get back to the side we had in the first game and they did pretty well," said chairman of selectors Bob McCarthy.

NSW team: Brett Stewart, Jarryd Hayne, Joel Monaghan, Matt Cooper, Anthony Quinn, Braith Anasta, Mitchell Pearce, Willie Mason, Danny Buderus (capt), Brett White, Craig Fitzgibbon, Ryan Hoffman, Paul Gallen. Interchange: Kurt Gidley, Anthony Laffranchi, Ben Cross, Anthony Tupou.

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