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Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce.

Nathan Cleary has failed in his bid to prove his fitness for Origin III, with Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce called into the NSW side for the decider.

In a huge twist to the Blues’ preparations, Cleary has failed to overcome an ankle injury which in turn has opened the door for Pearce to return to the Origin arena.

Pearce joined the Blues in camp on Wednesday night.

"This opportunity has come alone and I'm going to give it my best," he said.

"In four or five years' time when footy is finished I'll be thinking about moments like this. I'm grateful to be here, walking in and getting the opportunity to play with all these world-class players in the team. I'm really excited."

When asked if previous criticism of his form at Origin level was justified, Pearce replied: "Sometimes I felt like it was glorified, as it is after Origins, other times I haven't delivered.

'Unfinished business' driving Pearce's Blues redemption

"Origin is about winning and it'll be about winning next week. If we get the win I'm sure there will be a nice photo in the paper on Thursday which will be plenty of positivity. If I lose I'm sure I'll get the blame. It's part and parcel.

"I've got some unfinished business, I'm looking forward to hopefully doing my job for the team. It'd be nice to get the win that's for sure."

The Knights halfback, arguably the form playmaker in the NRL in 2019, has never been part of a Blues series victory despite playing 18 games for his state.

However this Queensland team is vastly different to the all-star line-up he faced for many years.

Pearce will join former Roosters teammate James Maloney in the halves for NSW, with Brad Fittler opting to call in Pearce instead of throwing Wade Graham into the deep end.

Pearce made himself unavailable for the first two games of the series due to injury, however has answered Fittler’s SOS just a week out from the decider.

Cleary hobbled from the field at half-time in the Blues' 38-6 triumph in Perth and will now miss the chance to help the Blues try to win back-to-back series for the first time since 2005.

He had spent almost every waking hour since suffering the injury working on his unlikely bid to play - even though he was aware the odds were against him.

After returning to Sydney last Monday, Cleary worked with Penrith physio Krystal Sharp from 7am to 7pm each day to reduce the swelling with the use of compression and ice machines every two hours.

Klemmer 'gutted' and 'motivated' over Blues recall

Sharp massaged and manipulated his injured right ankle when he wasn’t hooked up to one of the machines.

The 21-year-old halfback continued the treatment when he got home.

"It was pretty much from the time I woke up to when I went to bed, all the hours in the day I was doing everything I could to give myself a chance," Cleary said.

"I just kind of sat on the physio bed the whole day and was just icing it, compressing it and doing pretty much everything I could. I had a few different exercises and then we would get home, sit on the lounge and pretty much do the same routine.

"I was doing that the whole week just to try and get rid of the swelling."

Penrith doctor Norm Southern, head of performance Hayden Knowles, medical co-ordinator Craig Catterick and dietician Amanda McRedie were also involved. Cleary’s mother bought him oysters to eat to aid his recovery.

"After the scans the doctor called me and said you are a slight chance for Origin so I thought I may as well do everything to give myself every chance and if it’s not meant to be it’s not meant to be," he said on Tuesday.

"I was pretty lucky, the Penrith medical staff have helped me out a lot which I was grateful for."


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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