Before he had even played first grade football, Mitchell Pearce was being anointed as the next great halfback in Rugby League.
The son of former Balmain legend Wayne Pearce, he has the bloodlines of a legend. His size and ability to defend saw people compare him to Andrew Johns. This was timely as Johns career was just finishing and many within New South Wales could no see where our next halfback was going to come from. We were looking for someone to step in, and with so many legends talking up Mitchell Pearce, we were all willing to sit back and see the kid given every chance to succeed.
Pearce was given a smooth ride right through the representative ladder. He played State Of Origin football well before most players even get considered for representative honours. That was fine because this was the chosen one, the kid that was going to lead New South Wales, and maybe even Australia, for the next decade.
At club level Pearce played some great games. There were times when he looked like he could do it all. There was a pattern to his performances though. In a Roosters team that either looked like world beaters, or wooden spooners, Pearce’s performances seemed to mirror those of the team he was playing in.
It would have been easy to say that the best Roosters wins were as a result of Pearce influence, but over time it looked to be something different.
When the Roosters were on a roll and beating another team, Pearce looked great. When the game was tight, Pearce wasn’t that good. When the Roosters needed a spark, someone to lift them during a poor performance, Pearce was no where to be seen. This isn’t the mark of a great halfback…
Sure a halfback needs his forwards to go forward, but Pearce seemed to need his forwards to completely dominate for him to do anything! Having watched great play makers like Andrew Johns, Benji Marshall, Jonathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Darren Lockyer and the like dragging their own teams kicking and screaming to wins, Pearce just looked like he didn’t have that ability.
As his career matured, this inability to influence his teams performance become more obvious. When the Roosters played in big games that really meant something, Pearce didn’t perform well. He didn’t stand up and lead the team. Over the games entire history, that has always been the marker of a great half. The greats stand up and play their best football when it really counts. Mitchell Pearce just doesn’t do that.
The faith that New South Wales coaches and selectors showed in Pearce was unwavering. They had invested so much into Pearce, so many games, at some point he HAD to provide a return for them. Otherwise it would mean they were simply wrong all along.
Now, in 2013, fans have simply said enough is enough. It isn’t as though they haven’t been willing to give Pearce the time to develop, its just that we have all got to a point where we don’t think he is going to get any better.
At 24 years old, Pearce can no longer be called a youngster. Sure there is room for improvement, but it would take something very special to turn Mitchell Pearce into the truly great halfback that so many people keep insisting that he will become one day.
State Of Origin football isn’t the place to develop a halfback. You develop great halfbacks at club level. If a halfback isn’t great at club level, why would anyone think he would then be great at representative level.
I doubt you will find anyone that would accuse Mitchell Pearce of being one of the great halfbacks in the NRL.
At some point New South Wales selectors have to accept that Mitchell Pearce is who he is. He is a good defender, his kicking game is below average, his running game isn’t anything special and his passing game is poor. He is a player you can carry at club level when you have a good play maker alongside him, but he is not a representative quality player.
At this point it has to be remember that Mitchell Pearce didn’t ask for any of this. By all accounts he is a good bloke. The pressure he have been put under as a young player has been immense, and at every stage he has handed that pressure very well. He hasn’t become bitter, he hasn’t lashed out at fans and he hasn’t been crushed by expectation.
I have nothing against Mitchell Pearce, but he isn’t a State Of Origin halfback. The sooner selectors realize that, the better it will be for New South Wales, and the better it will be for Mitchell Pearce.