With five minutes remaining in last nights NRL finals match between the Sydney Roosters and the Penrith Panthers, Mitchell Pearce had his moment in the bag.
Criticism that Pearce has carried over the years of not turning up and leading from the front when it really mattered was shattered when he took on the Panthers tiring defense and scored an emphatic try that looked to have sealed the game for the Roosters. It was a moment Pearce could look back on, one he could point to when anyone criticized him again. The monkey looked to have been well and truly shaken off his back.
When Pearce scored the game looked over. Sure it was still close, but in the context of the match, with the Panthers looking out on their feet, it felt like this game had been run and won. Then, magic happened.
The Panthers final try and a miracle. Lets not dress it up as anything other than the team pulling a try out of their arse at the last moment. From that point on, Jamie Soward took the game over. There are few better players in the game in that situation than Soward. While his field goal wasn’t pretty, it was good, and in the space of about five minutes Mitchell Pearce’s moment has vanished.
As a Panther supporter I was ecstatic! My club was now one win away from the Grand Final. When you are a long suffering Panthers supporter, you take any finals success you can get! I couldn’t help but think about Pearce though. That game could have been one of the great moments of his career, possibly his personal highlight. Now, I bet he doesn’t even want to think about it.
People feel as though Mitchell Pearce gets criticized far too often. I tend to think that Pearce finds himself in the unfortunate situation, through no fault of his own, that expectations for him have been so high and he just isn’t the players so many in the media and in the NSW selection room want him to be.
Taking Pearce’s game in isolation from all of that, he’s a handy halfback. He is a very good defender who showed in 2014 that with the right players around him, you could win a Premiership with him as your halfback.
There are plenty of other halfbacks in the game today that wish they could say the same thing!
The problem is, his numerous selections by NSW in losing State Of Origin series, and constant praise by commentators, people get turned off by all of that sort of thing. Hell, even when champion players find themselves in that type of position it gets very old very quickly!
Mitchell Pearce is only 25 years old. He could have another decade in the game ahead of him. There is no doubt he will have many more moments that people will consider highlights. There is no doubt that when the game is on the line and the result really matters, Pearce will only become more reliable and have a bigger impact on the game.
One day I hope that Pearce ends up being the experienced, grizzled veteran. A player that has been through it all, that doesn’t get phased by anything. A player you know you can rely on no matter what the occasion, and a player that has more than redeemed himself even in the eyes of his greatest critics.
Last night might have been a lost moment for Mitchell Pearce, but it could very well be the making of him too. Success is brilliant, but failure builds character.
The next time the game is on the line, keep an eye on Mitchell Pearce…