Can Mitchell Pearce save his State of Origin career? Picture: Brett Costello
Can Mitchell Pearce save his State of Origin career? Picture: Brett Costello

How Mitchell Pearce can save his Origin career

A dominant No.7 with the ball on a string, running and stepping and crunching blokes in tackles - where have we seen this before?

Newcastle was once famous for its halfback. Or at least, Newcastle's halfback was famous.

By no means is Mitchell Pearce comparable to Andrew Johns in the hearts of Knights fans, but on Sunday afternoon they could be forgiven for cheering like he is.

At his best, 30-year-old Pearce is one of the most talented players in the competition, capable of pulling apart defences and taking a game at will.

He's tough, smart and clinical. He's a premiership winner.

Against the Eels, it was all on display.

It's only a month until State of Origin coaches make their selections for game one, and so far, Pearce has not been mentioned as a possible contender. His form simply has not warranted it.

At the tail-end of his career, he's already played 18 games for New South Wales with minimal success - but still, his name is always mentioned as a potential halfback option.

His ability and potential has demanded it.

But in 2019, Mitchell Moses, Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker and his old halves partner Luke Keary have all been touted as potential Blues halves.

Of course, incumbents Nathan Cleary and James Maloney are also in the hunt.

Blues coach Brad Fittler has been moving towards a younger brigade of players who haven't been tarnished by years of heartbreak at the hands of the Maroons.

Pearce is the poster boy for it. He's yet to win a series for his all trouble.

Perhaps it was Newcastle's poor form and needing to get a win for the coach, or perhaps it was personal pride - but Pearce reminded everyone why he's one of the game's elite on Sunday.

Michael Ennis said as much in commentary, suggesting Pearce has taken his omission from Origin talk personally.

"All through the week, people throwing Mitchell Moses in for Origin selection, Pearce doesn't want his cards to be stamped," Ennis said, over footage of the Knights halfback driving his Eels opponent into the turf - body on the line, desperation on his face.

The biggest criticism of Pearce has been his ability to step up in the big moments, and he delivered when the Knights needed a win to save their season.

But that's the infuriating thing about him.

Perhaps to save his Origin career, he needs to stand up and deliver for himself and his team - consistently.

Just like Johns did for the Knights all those years ago.