Pearce seeks decider redemption
After taking part in five separate unsuccessful Origin series, Roosters and Blues playmaker Mitchell Pearce is hoping his sixth can bring the ultimate redemption in the form of winning a decider at the formidable Suncorp Stadium cauldron.
Peace, one of the most maligned players in Origin history, has spoken publicly about his early Origin games and in hindsight not feeling ready when he was first thrust into the interstate arena.
He has often unfairly been made the fall guy for NSW failures; his first match was the 2008 decider as a 19-year-old replacing the injured Peter Wallace, when the Blues went down 16-10 at ANZ.
After sitting out the 2009 series he was brought back for the second and third games of 2010 as NSW suffered a rare whitewash (the only clean sweep of Queensland's eight years of dominance).
Again to blame Pearce would be unfair; the Blues were a rabble that year with questionable selections, almost the entire team being dumped after a horror 34-6 loss in Game Two in a series that featured the Timana Tahu walkout and Kurt Gidley captaining from the bench.
Pearce played all three games in 2011, 12 and 13, although with a different halves partner each year (Jamie Soward in 2011, Todd Carney in 2012 and James Maloney in 2013).
It's worth noting NSW came agonisingly close each time against one of the greatest rugby league teams ever assembled, losing three straight deciders – the first two of those at Suncorp, and the second and third deciders by a combined margin on three points.
After being left out of 2014's drought-breaking series win due to an off-field incident Pearce entered the 2015 series for the first time as a premiership-winner and club captain, and immediately set about notching two of his better Origin games, particularly in the Melbourne win.
He now faces an Origin decider at Suncorp for the third time, in what will be his fifth series decider, and is under no illusions about how important this one game is.
"It's obviously a unique experience, it's something none of us have done," Pearce said of the Blues' bid to win Game Three with the series on the line.
"There's obviously nothing to draw on because we haven't [won a decider] before, but it's just another game of footy at the end of the day. It's a massive opportunity."
Pearce said the chance to do it at Suncorp would add to the thrill of a victory.
"Away from friends your family and the fans, it makes your job even harder, but to win would be something special," he said.
After an outpouring of emotion from Blues players after sealing last year's series with a 6-4 win in Game Two, Pearce said he expected emotions would be similarly high from this year's group if they were able to repeat the effort.
"The emotions will be high, I'm sure there will be tears," Pearce said.
"I'll be crying for sure if [skipper Paul Gallen] is holding the trophy up."
The winning captain is not presented with the shield until after Game Three regardless of whether the series goes to a decider, meaning despite sealing the series in Game Two in Sydney last year, Gallen had the unusual experience of lofting the trophy at Suncorp after a heavy loss in a dead rubber to a chorus of boos.
Pearce said getting booed by the parochial Maroons fans next Wednesday was to be expected.
"I wasn't there to experience it last year, but getting booed wouldn't be a good feeling," Pearce said.
"It's just part and parcel, they're passionate up there about their team and I couldn't think of anything better than holding the shield up again and having them boo us again.
"It's something I haven't been able to experience; it's a goal of mine to be able to [win a series]."
Of his inspirational skipper, Pearce said he'd love Gallen to play on in Origin next year despite recent speculation Wednesday's game will be his last.
"The biggest thing with Gal is just the leadership that he brings," Pearce said.
"Even coming into camp he's an outright leader and loves that ownership of being a leader and I think that especially with a younger side the boys look up to that.
"They look for guidance and it's not only what he does on the field, everyone knows that, but that leadership off the field is something that you'd love for another few years."
Players are still no clearer as to whether Robbie Farah will be able to push through the pain of a broken hand and subsequent surgery to take his place or if Sharks rake Mick Ennis – a man Pearce has already played alongside four times in Origin – will have to take over.
Pearce said Ennis had been one of the form players in the NRL this year.
"The one thing I've noticed since coming back into this team, 'Loz' [coach Laurie Daley] is very clear on what he wants from each player.
"He's so professional in his structure and his game plans and what he wants us to do, so Mick will slip straight into that if he's picked.
"I'm sure Mick will do a great job. He's more deceptive out of dummy-half than people think. He's got a little bit of speed for an old guy too, I reckon he's been outstanding. If he gets picked, he'll add a lot to the team."