NSW five-eighth James Maloney has backed Origin teammate Mitchell Pearce against critics, insisting the halfback has become a “scapegoat” for recent downfalls within the Blues’ camp as “that’s what NSW people do.”
Maloney praised Pearce’s 18-game Origin career, stating that he’d “love to see him right a few wrongs.”
“You get it wrong, they hammer you,” Maloney told the media.
“But you can’t keep a good guy down. He’s back.”
Pearce was stunningly recalled into the NSW squad for the first time since 2017, where he looked settled within the Blues camp during training Wednesday.
“It’s always unfair but that’s Origin,” Maloney said.
“Nathan (Cleary) and Cody (Walker) copped a hammering after one game.
“That’s what NSW people do. You get it wrong they hammer you.”
Pearce and Maloney were both key-figures for the Blues in 2017, where NSW held a 1-0 series lead before giving up a 16-6 game two lead and eventually losing the series altogether.
“Mitchell has copped a lot of unfair criticism and he has been a scapegoat when things have gone wrong. It wasn’t always deserved and it wasn’t all on him,” Maloney said.
“He wears it and has always handled it. You’ve got to admire his ability to move past it and continue to move on and play really good footy. I’d love to see him get the job here and right a few wrongs.”
Maloney added that Pearce’s recent switch to Newcastle has been a factor to the halfback’s newfound form.
“Any criticism of him was always about game management. But you see him up at Newcastle doing exactly that for them each week,” Maloney said.
“Going to a side like that, where that leadership roles falls on his shoulders, it’s been good for him.
“Pearcey has been there plenty of times before and he knows what’s coming and what is going to happen. He’ll be fine.
“As hard as the move from the Chooks was for him, I think it has probably taken him out of his comfort zone. It’s something new and I dare say he is learning a fair bit.”
Maloney played as a second receiver alongside Pearce at Sydney, but was unclear on how the partnership will play out on Wednesday night.
“Originally, when the news first happened, you’re shattered for Nathan (Cleary),” Maloney said. “But then you have to move on and Mitchell and I have played plenty of football together.
“Most blokes in this side will most probably have played some footy with Mitch at different points. He will come in and do a job and make sure to get the job done.
“I will just play the same game I always play. Nothing will change from my perspective. We have played enough together so there won’t be any clashing over who is doing what.
We know each other’s games really well. We will just fall into what we have done in the past. He hasn’t missed a beat and hasn’t seemed like an outside coming in. We already have a game plan and game style that suits.”
Maloney and Pearce’s relationship bonds well on and off the field, with Pearce attending his close mate’s wedding to wife Jess.
“I know Jimmy really went — I went to his wedding. If you get invited to someone’s wedding, they must like you,” Pearce said.
“He might look after me. Playing with Jimmy was always enjoyable and we did have a lot of success.
“I have played with Jimmy plenty of times and he really ran the show the last time. He would be really confident leading the boys. I’m sure whatever style they want me to play I will be able to deliver it.
Maloney added: “Mitchell is good fun to have around, he enjoys a laugh. He’s fun to have around the place. We don’t catch up all the time but every time we see each other it’s like we saw each other yesterday.”