Hunt 'certain' Pearce will play Origin again
He is a month away from a return to the NRL and boasts just four wins in 15 Origin appearances to date but Broncos halfback Ben Hunt is adamant that Roosters half Mitchell Pearce will play Origin for New South Wales again.
Caught in his own log-jam of young Queensland playmakers patiently waiting to follow in the footsteps of Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, Hunt believes the Blues have some quality halves of their own emerging in the ranks.
In his exclusive column in the Round 5 issue of Big League Hunt names the Blues halves he believes can match it with Queensland's finest but said Pearce is exactly the type of player NSW needs to turn things around.
"The halves in NSW have copped flak for so many years, with no end in sight. But I don't think the talent in NSW is as bad as it's made out to be," Hunt writes in Big League.
"Mitchell Pearce isn't playing at the moment, but he's a fantastic player. I'm confident he'll come back and play well straight away and I think he's a certainty to play Origin for the rest of his career.
"He's a really fierce competitor and he's just what the Blues need."
Hunt and Broncos teammate Anthony Milford have put their Origin debuts on hold for at least 12 months by virtue of breaking curfew at the Emerging Origin camp in January but represent just two of a host of potential Maroon playmakers waiting in the wings.
Bulldogs half Moses Mbye has stamped himself as a rare talent with composure beyond his years, Daly Cherry-Evans has already represented Queensland on six occasions, Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan played all three games of last year's Origin Series and Ashley Taylor (Titans) and Jayden Nikorima (Roosters) have made bright starts to their NRL careers.
With Pearce unable to return from suspension until Round 9 and Trent Hodkinson playing in an inexperienced team at Newcastle Blues coach Laurie Daley is again faced with the prospect of blooding a new halves combination but Hunt doesn't believe it is all doom and gloom.
"NSW has had extremely good forward packs during Queensland's record-breaking run, but the difference has been the halves," Hunt says in the Round 5 issue of Big League.
"Trent Hodkinson was there last year and he's a quality player as well. Josh Reynolds is in great form, too. Everyone says he's built for Origin and I agree with that. Jackson Hastings is still coming through but he also has a lot of potential.
"Adam Reynolds is injured at the moment but he's got an extremely good kicking game and that's what an Origin side needs. You need to kick well to the corners and he'd come into his own in that department. Blake Austin, when he's fit, is also such a dangerous player.
"NSW are going through an unlucky patch at the moment with so many injuries, but once they're all fit and a few of the younger halves like Hastings get some more games under their belts, they're going to have a good little halves stockpile of their own down there."
The Round 5 issue of Big League is on sale at newsagents and at the ground. Digital version also available through iTunes, Google Play and at www.zinio.com.