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Mitchell Pearce set for Origin baptism

01/07/2008 07:01:12 PM Comments (0)

NSW No.7 Mitchell Pearce will on Wednesday attempt to do something the greatest halfback ever could not do - win on his Origin debut.

Not only that, but Pearce will have to do something halfback of the century Andrew Johns took his entire rep career to achieve - win an Origin decider.

The 19-year-old is the first rookie halfback ever to be thrust into an Origin decider and is charged with the responsibility of denying Queensland their third straight series title.

Of the 12 halfbacks to debut for NSW in the No.7 jumper, five have won with greats such as Johns and Peter Sterling to taste first up defeat.

It wasn't until Johns's fourth Origin wearing the No.7 that he led NSW to victory, in game two in 1998.

And it took the legendary halfback four attempts to win a decider after one loss (1998) and two draws (1999 and 2002) before his fairytale farewell in the 2005 series win.

The pressure on the second youngest player in NSW history is remarkable, but NSW veteran Craig Fitzgibbon says the situation is ideal for the debutant.

Fitzgibbon says coming into a decider without carrying the mental scars of the Origin II record 30-0 drubbing will help Pearce.

"Maybe this is the best case scenario for him," said Fitzgibbon.

"I think maybe it's worked out in his favour ... he can come and lay it on the line in a short period of time.

"Look at what happened after game two, there's a fair bit of pressure and scrutiny involved and you just wonder, older blokes are a bit more resilient about that stuff but it might damage a young fella like that.

"He is only 19 and he is a young 19. You just worry about what could happen to him in that respect but it doesn't seem to be bothering him at the moment. Only time will tell."

Fitzgibbon had initially expressed concerns about blooding Pearce into Origin this year, but admits he's been converted into a true believer by watching the teen work his magic in camp.

"He keeps proving everyone wrong doesn't he and he looks like he is ready for it," said Fitzgibbon.

"Talking to him a little bit before (he was selected) and seeing where his head was at and maybe he wasn't sure he was ready and I think now maybe he realises he is.

"I certainly don't think it was a physical aspect he might not have been ready for.

"He is up for it physically and I know he won't die wondering."

There had been suggestions NSW coach Craig Bellamy would start experienced utility Kurt Gidley on Wednesday night to protect Pearce from the fiery early exchanges, but he denied such a move.

Queensland coach Mal Meninga is expecting Pearce to be out there from the opening whistle and says the daunting prospect of debuting in a decider shouldn't phase the son of NSW great Wayne Pearce.

"They won't want him sitting on the bench getting eaten up by all his nervous energy," said Meninga.

"He'll come out and he'll play very well."

Bellamy compared Pearce's faultless preparation to that of Origin I rookie Peter Wallace, who was unlucky not to win man of the match honours in NSW's 18-10 triumph.

"Everyone has been really impressed with the way he's handled himself and he's had a great preparation," said Bellamy.

"He is a bit like Peter (Wallace) was in the first game, he has just got better and better as the week has gone on.

"He is certainly a confident kid and he is certainly not backwards in coming forwards if he needs to tell the forwards to get into certain situations and they don't get there.

"He will be very confident going into tomorrow night."

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