BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Nobody remembers the first act or the second act – the only thing people care about is what happens in act three. We as New South Welshmen have all been guilty of twisting the knife into Mitchell Pearce at one time or another.
Forget the fact Queensland over the distance had legends like Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Greg Inglis, Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Petero Civoneciva, Justin Hodges or Matt Scott. Hell, throw in Israel Folau, Karmichael Hunt, Brent Tate and Nate Myles while we’re at it.
The most supreme, all-round, classy rugby league team we may ever see.
When you add a sprinkling of ‘Origin guts’ on top – they were truly godlike.
QLD rarely ever won by big margins in their ridiculous run.
But in State of Origin, the only thing that matters is the series result.
The Blues changed their coach several times.
Some argue one-time captain Paul Gallen overruled too much of the attack.
Many times the Blues forwards, forever being axed and replaced, replaced and axed again, couldn’t keep the cohesion to win the middle of the field for any extended period of time.
For years NSW resorted to playing dirty.
Remember Trent Barrett’s swinging arm flush on Inglis’ jaw?
Selectors would constantly go back to men like Luke O’Donnell, Anthony Watmough or Beau Scott.
‘If you can’t beat ‘em, kill ‘em’.
But history says nothing worked.
And who copped the brunt of the shit show?
The Blues just weren’t good enough.
They couldn’t match QLD’s talent.
And when they did, they screwed it up one way or another.
But all Pearce’s fault?
While QLD’s halves enjoyed continuity, year-after-year, the Blues lumped Pearce with how many partners? Six.
How many times did Pearce have to start again?
‘Braith Anasta has been selected at five-eigth for… Trent Barrett is Pearce’s new halves partner…’ Hi Jamie Soward, bye Jamie Soward… Todd Carney, James Maloney, Trent Hodkinson.
All the while Cronk, Lockyer and Thurston finished each other’s sentences – blink twice for a chip kick, a whistle for a kick to the corner.
Pearce hasn’t been great but he hasn’t been bad at all.
What else did we have to throw at the Maroons?
The reason Pearce copped so much shit for so long from fans was because everybody else was getting sacked and swapped out for the next poor bastard.
Yeah Pearce has played 18 Origin games and he hasn’t won a series.
Was he terrible or the only one we could keep blaming?
Is it his fault he has been NSW’s best halfback for that long and the Maroons had the greatest footy team ever assembled? Is it his fault QLD didn’t have to change a winning side because they had some of the best players we’ll ever see?
The truth is Pearce hasn’t been the issue.
He never was.
And now he has the chance to win US the State of Origin.
When we didn’t want him we bagged him.
Now we need him and we bag him, anyway.
What does he get out of it?
Social media will say, if we get up, it’s about time.
He can’t win either way.
However looking at Pearce, at peace in Newcastle and playing the football of his life, he shouldn’t care what we think. He is tougher than what we give him credit for. He’s back in the sky blue, after all.
Wrestling legend Ric Flair is a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion (wooo!).
But he also lost it 16 times.
The people that matter know and understand what Pearce has given for his state already with nothing from us in return.
When the Origin shield is handed to Blues captain Boyd Cordner on Wednesday night, the bustling second-rower should peer back over his shoulder at his old Roosters teammate and call him onto the stage.
It should be Pearce that holds up the shield.
Nobody deserves it more.
Go the Blues!