As tough as this is to say, the New South Wales media called it after Origin 1, this is “the end of an Origin era”.
Unfortunately for fans south of the Tweed, that era was not the era of dominance by a champion Maroon side, but the end of an era that should have ended three-or-more years ago, the era of Mitchell Pearce as New South Wales halfback.
Before the six or so people who still support his selection in an arena he has now failed in for seemingly the twenty-fifth time, I am not placing the series loss squarely on the shoulders of the Roosters halfback, but as the halfback, he is the man who must accept responsibility.
The side was picked around him. This was publicly stated by Laurie Daley and co. Robbie Farah was overlooked due to his calling the shots over the halfback in the past. Evidently, Paul Gallen, who for the record is still the only man to lead NSW to victory in the past decade, was holding Pearce back.
Last night, neither Farah nor Gallen were there to “stifle” the No. 7. He was the man running the show. The man with the weight of an entire state on his shoulders.
He didn’t deliver.
Nothing against Pearce, I’ve met him a handful of times and I couldn’t speak highly enough of the guy. He’s had his problems off the field, but in my experiences, he’s been nothing but friendly, warm and welcoming.
But as an Origin footballer, he has had more chances than anyone else in the history of the game and has come up short at EVERY opportunity.
For the record, there are more than a few players who should follow him out of the Origin arena, but this was certainly the last chance for a man who has succeeded at club level for many years, yet has never been able to make the jump.
Once again, Pearce is not the only player who didn’t lift with the series on the line, but this side was built around him. This was his side. HIS SIDE.
A side which, if not for a series of mistakes, would have been 30-nil down at half time.
A side whose only try came via a James Maloney kick.
A side who was dominated for field possession due to a horror kicking game. Honestly, I cannot remember Pearce finding space on one kick.
The obvious question will be “if not Pearce, then who?”
The obvious answer is now LITERALLY ANYONE ELSE!!!
There were plenty of differences between the sides last night, but the most pronounced difference was that in class between the halfbacks.
Cooper Cronk was in everything, Pearce was not.
Cameron Munster outplayed him, on debut, in the so-called “biggest Origin game of all time”.
Mitch, time to bow out, and take those responsible for your selection with you.