NSW great Wayne Pearce says his troubled son Mitchell needs to get his head right before targeting State of Origin football in 2016.
While series-winning Blues captains and halves Andrew Johns and Geoff Toovey believe Pearce should be a frontline contender if he regains form following his eight-week NRL suspension, his father says playing Origin this year should be a low priority.
“The furthest thing in his mind at the moment is setting a goal to play Origin because he just needs to get back on track,” Wayne Pearce told AAP on Wednesday.
“The priority for me as a father and for Mitchell as the person involved is for Mitchell to get his head in the right space and to get back on the field playing good footy.”
NSW’s incumbent No.6, Mitchell Pearce returned to training with the Sydney Roosters this week for the first time since the drunken Australian Day antics that led to his ban and a spell in rehab overseas.
The Roosters were hammered 42-10 by South Sydney in Pearce’s absence on Sunday, but his father – the only man other than current Blues mentor Laurie Daley to captain and coach NSW to a series triumph – doesn’t think his son has taken the loss personally.
“He would have liked to have seen them win, but he’s in a pretty good head space,” said Pearce Snr, who this year celebrates his 30th anniversary of captaining a side to the first-ever 3-0 Origin series clean sweep.
“The time in the rehab was the start of the journey, but it was a time well spent.”
His family concerns aside, Pearce – as well as Johns, Toovey and incumbent NSW captain Paul Gallen – insists there’s no cause for panic in the Blues ranks despite a horror early-season injury toll – particularly in the halves – and last year’s game-three drubbing at the hands of Queensland.
“The series is still three months off. It’s not a worry at all,” Johns said as a celebrated group of winning NSW captains assembled in Sydney.
“There’s a few young guys coming through and by that time Mitchell will be coming back and they’re all competing for two spots and there’s probably half a dozen guys in contention.
“If Mitchell comes back and plays well, he’s definitely in the mix.”
Pearce, Toovey and Gallen all agree the Maroons’ series-deciding 52-6 spanking of the Blues in Brisbane is also irrelevant.
“A one-off loss like that as coach – having been there – is not a huge issue,” Pearce said.
“If he had a couple back-to-back, then that would be an issue.
“Every coach, even the great coaches – even Wayne Bennett – have coached a team that’s got hammered and you just can’t explain it.
“I’m sure there’s some learnings from that game, but it’s about just letting it go.
“And two games at home for us this year is a massive boost for us.”