Pressure is on for Blues pair
NOT since 1998 has a losing Blues halves pairing been retained for the following game in State of Origin rugby league.
Tonight in Brisbane, Mitchell Pearce and Trent Barrett will play with the threat of the poisoned chalice – they are the 12th combination New South Wales has used in 14 games since last winning a series.
When NSW are beaten the halves’ heads are first to roll – Pearce and Barrett know this only to well.
The last time Pearce played State of Origin it was like throwing a lamb to the wolves.
It was Game III in 2008, with the Blues looking to avoid a then record-equalling three-straight Maroon conquerings.
Pearce was 19 then and with just 29 first-grade games under his belt he would face enormous opposition in experienced Maroon and Kangaroo halves Johnathon Thurston and Scott Prince.
As is history, the Blues faltered 16-10 and Pearce was relegated to the NSW State of Origin scrap heap.
Now with five straight series defeats looming, Pearce has again been handed the key to NSW destiny – the sky-blue No 7 jersey.
It could be the most pivotal match in Origin history and after taking veteran Brett Kimmorley’s spot in the side you would imagine Pearce would be feeling the heat.
“Nah, not really,” he said casually.
“I’m feeling pretty relaxed, just enjoying the build-up and looking forward to getting out there.”
It surely will be a re-baptism of fire.
Suncorp Stadium will be bursting at the seams with 52,000-plus Origin die hards packed in – most of them screaming for blood after seeing one of their greats, Steve Price, knocked out the last time this circus was in town.
NSW certainly areup against it, but you wouldn’t know it talking to Pearce.
“I am feeling pretty confident, actually,” he said. “I reckon we will be right.”
In his Origin debut Pearce was partnered in the halves by Roosters team-mate Braith Anasta – another who has ended up on the Origin scrapheap due to Maroon dominance.
Tonight, he will be partnered by nine-time Blue Trent Barrett.
“Trent is someone I have watched and looked up to through his whole career,” Pearce said.
“So to be playing alongside him for the first time, I am very excited.”
Excitement and confidence are one thing, but it seems Pearce and Barrett will need to deliver nothing less than victory if they are to retain their spots.