PM's XIII heap praise on Pearce, Moses
Mitchell Pearce and Mitchell Moses probably weren't expecting to be the Prime Minister's XIII halves this time 12 months ago, but after stellar on-field showings in 2016 the pair will take on the playmaking duties against Papua New Guinea on Saturday.
Roosters halfback Pearce overcame an eight-game suspension and niggling injuries to finish the year as one of the form halfbacks in the NRL while Moses developed into the Tigers' number one attacking threat by season's end.
The PM's XIII side has traditionally included one experienced half and another one on the rise. Last year saw Adam Reynolds partner Kane Elgey, while Greg Bird and Aidan Sezer combined in 2013 and Scott Prince and Lachlan Coote were the go-to men in 2012.
This year will be no different with 2011 halfback Pearce paired with Wests Tigers young gun Moses for Saturday evening's match in Port Moresby.
PM's XIII coach Mal Meninga said Pearce's selection was the result of his ability to fight back from the off-field drama that plagued him at the start of the year.
"For Mitchell Pearce this is a bit of redemption for him," Meninga said.
"His backend to the year was terrific so he was one of the best halves in the competition at the time. He led the Roosters in the backend of the season where they were reasonably successful."
PM's XIII skipper Greg Inglis has squared off against Pearce many times in the State of Origin arena and in Rabbitohs-Roosters derbies, but has never played alongside the 27-year-old.
The pair will likely form a lethal combination on the left edge, and the Rabbitohs No.1 said he was eager to be on the end of some early ball from the prolific playmaker.
"He's a great player, without a doubt. I think he'll be on my side of the field so I'm looking forward to playing outside of him," Inglis said when asked about Pearce.
Inglis's centre partner – and fellow fullback at NRL level – Josh Dugan was on the wrong end of a Pearce masterclass when the Roosters faced the Dragons in Round 24 and said his inclusion in the side was just reward for a terrific second half to the season.
"I thought once he came back from those few dramas he was probably playing the best footy of his career," Dugan said.
"That showed how much the games means to him and sometimes you need that kick up the bum."
Mitchell Moses is at the opposite end of the experience spectrum but thoroughly deserved his spot on the side after nearly guiding the Wests Tigers to the finals.
The 22-year-old finished 2016 with 113 points, six tries, 18 try assists and 15 line breaks and capped off his breakout year by being named Wests Tigers Player of the Year.
Touted as a future New South Wales Blue, Meninga said Moses would benefit greatly from his first taste of senior representative footy.
"Mitchell Moses is a player of the future, so to put him into a team like this is going to add to his experience and confidence – not that he needs it too much," Meninga laughed.
"I think it'll do him a world of wonders to see how some of the best of our players prepare for matches."
Moses's teammate at club level, James Tedesco, revealed he was with the five-eighth when he got the good news.
"I was with him when he got the call that he was going to be playing. I already knew that I was going to be in but he got the call late. I was stoked for him," Tedesco said.
"He's had a great end to the year and he really got us in that position to make the eight. He's had a breakout season and I think this is the start of a big representative career for him."
Pearce and Moses will likely be the pairing for the bulk of Saturday's contest, but Meninga indicated Bulldogs halfback Moses Mbye would be unleashed off the bench and could spend some time in the halves.
"Moses has been part of the Queensland program for a while and because of his versatility, it makes him a valuable proposition. He'll be very versatile for us up there," Meninga said.
Game on. Data off.
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