Pearce the latest NSW quick-fix at No.7 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Pearce the latest NSW quick-fix at No.7

By Steve Jancetic 27/06/2008 06:28:45 PM Comments (0)

Nineteen-year-old halfback Mitchell Pearce will become the youngest man ever to wear the NSW No.7 jersey in Wednesday night's Origin decider, but the odds are against him wearing it into his 20s.

Pearce is the latest in a long line of solutions in the playmaking role for the Blues, the Sydney Roosters youngster the eighth halfback named by Blues selectors since 2004.

In that same period Queensland have used just two players at No.7, current halves partners Scott Prince and Johnathan Thurston.

The Blues list reads like a who's who of halfbacks; Craig Gower, Brett Finch, Trent Barrett, Brett Kimmorley, Andrew Johns, Jarrod Mullen, Peter Wallace and now Pearce all getting a crack in the five-year period, Kimmorley the only one retained following a loss when he played in last year's dead rubber at Suncorp Stadium.

All it seems have struggled to thrive in the shadow of Johns, whose two games in the 2005 series still rank with some of the greatest NSW performances ever witnessed.

Mullen was seen as the heir apparent when handed a start in game one last year, but his Origin career has so far failed to extend beyond a debut appearance.

Pearce knows the pressure is on to make the spot his own.

"Obviously you're just rapt to be here for this game, but obviously you'd want to hold on to it for as long as you could provided your form warrants it," Pearce said.

"While you're here and you've got the opportunity, you just want to give it your all otherwise you're not going to get another look in."

NSW selector Laurie Daley admitted the decision to throw Pearce in at such a young age was done with one eye on the future.

"I think he's a long term prospect for NSW, he's got a great kicking game, he takes the line on, and he's not afraid to tell people where to go and what to do," Daley said.

"I think he's an outstanding prospect."

Despite being three years removed from his last Origin appearance, the Johns shadow still looms large with the former NSW skipper part of the training set-up with the Blues.

But far from being daunted by Johns' presence, Pearce said he was thrilled to have the man voted the greatest halfback to ever play the game by his side.

"He's a freak, he's someone I've always looked up to," Pearce said.

"I've met him a couple of times, it's going to be awesome being with him all week and doing a bit of work."

Pearce was forced to train without halves partner Braith Anasta in Friday's lengthy opposed session against the Wests Tigers Toyota Cup side.

Anasta was nursing a sore ankle, but team officials were quick to hose down any thought of the five-eighth missing Wednesday night's decider, claiming Anasta would run with the side when they returned to training on Sunday.

The session was overseen by assistant referees coach Bill Harrigan, Blues coach Craig Bellamy denying Harrigan's involvement was a reaction to NSW's displeasure with referee Tony Archer's performance in Origin II.

"We just got a referee down for today's session, usually they send a young bloke along but Bill's come along today, I think he lives close to here," Bellamy said.

"It's just as we're doing our drills, getting them back ten metres and if we do any ruck work make sure we're aware (of holding down too long).

"If there's something going wrong there he'll let us know."

The Blues will return to camp on Sunday having been given Saturday off by coach Bellamy.

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