Fittler places faith in Pearce - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Fittler places faith in Pearce

By David Beniuk 11/09/2008 07:29:15 PM Comments (0)

Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce is the key to the NRL club's return to finals action for the first time in three years, says coach Brad Fittler.

Pearce has copped some criticism for a supposed post State of Origin hangover, but Fittler jumped to his defence, saying his No.7 would not be overawed by his first venture into finals football and would be a future leader at the Roosters.

"I've been really happy with the way Mitchell's gone this year, for a 19-year-old kid to steer our team around," Fittler told reporters.

"Last year we came about 13th ... so the difference he's made to our team (is he's) given us some direction and direction under pressure.

"There's been some games this year where we've had to come from behind and some games this year where we've had some pressure, sometimes put on from the coach, and he's risen so I have him in front of most of them."

Pearce, the son of Balmain great Wayne Pearce, will come up against the man he replaced in the NSW team for this year's third Origin match, Peter Wallace, in Friday night's first qualifying final against Brisbane at the Sydney Football Stadium.

"He's just a kid who loves his footy and likes to come to every challenge so if he sees that as a challenge, whatever he does, whatever his motivation is, it's been good enough for me up to date," the coach said.

Fittler said Pearce had not looked upon his on field responsibilities at such a young age as a tough gig.

"I'm sure he's just enjoyed every part of it," Fittler said.

"You just see the way the bloke buzzes around. He's a natural footy player, he loves coming to training, he loves ripping in, he gets disappointed when blokes aren't having a go and to say it's difficult, I think it just comes natural really."

And the coach said his playmaker would not be overawed by his first appearance in an NRL final on Friday night.

"Nothing else has overawed him so he's just a great kid to have in your side," he said.

"There's no doubt in my mind he's going to be a great leader ... he leads already."

Meanwhile, Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello said he was feeling confident entering a finals showdown with arch rival Karmichael Hunt after making a successful return from a neck injury last week.

"I had certain goals to get back in at a certain time," he said.

"It might have taken longer than I thought but I'm here now and I've played one game already so it's pretty exciting."

Minichiello said he had given no consideration to whether he would attempt to continue his representative career.

"I'm not thinking about that at all at the moment, I'm just thinking trying to play some good footy," he said.

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