Mitchell Pearce's self-confessed 'rollercoaster' year has ended on a high with the Roosters halfback selected to wear the No.7 jersey for the Prime Minister's XIII on Saturday against Papua New Guinea.
The 27-year-old missed the first eight matches of the season after being suspended for his Australia Day indiscretion and missed another four games through injury, but remained one of the key figures for the Tricolours when he was on the field.
Pearce finished the year with 11 try assists from 12 matches to only sit behind Roosters skipper Jake Friend (12) as the leading creator at the club.
While he lost his NSW Blues jersey to Adam Reynolds, Pearce's late-season form was enough to earn him a spot in the PM's XIII squad for the first time since 2011.
"It was a rollercoaster year, but I finished the year playing some good footy and I was proud of where I got myself to so this is a nice reward for that," he said.
"There are a lot of players who aren't eligible with the finals still on, and that's where you'd rather be, but it is a good honour.
"There are some super players in this side and I'm excited to be the halfback of this team. With the year that I've had, I feel proud to be acknowledged."
Without the star power of James Maloney, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Michael Jennings at their disposal, the Tricolours failed to fire for the first time in four years, finishing the season in 15th spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
Given the youthful nature of their squad heading into 2017, Pearce said the onus was on him to step up as one of the senior members of the playing group.
"I was really happy with where I got to. I felt like I sort of evolved my game as a half in the team," he continued.
"We had a lot of inexperience in our side [in 2016]. We've had a lot of success the last three years, and there have been a lot of guys who can hold their own with every position pretty much filled by 100+ gamers.
"I had to take a lot more of a leadership role playing with young halves and a fullback, so I feel like I've evolved my game.
"I want to keep building my game. I'm 27 and you'd like to be playing your best footy over the next four or five years. I'm really excited about where the future is headed for the Roosters."
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