Mitchell Pearce is a new man and good mate Boyd Cordner says everyone who wrote the Sydney Roosters halfback off can take a bow for helping.
Having taken his game to new heights since being dropped for last year’s State or Origin series over a nightclub incident, Pearce’s progress gets the ultimate test when he returns to the Origin arena for game one at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday.
Throughout his rep career, the 26-year-old has been dogged by claims he cannot perform at Origin level, with critics slating his efforts to steer NSW around the park in 12 games over six campaigns from 2008.
But Roosters officials and teammates says he has grown greatly since he last played for his state, helping the club to a premiership and himself to a Roosters player of the year award.
In the Blues’ Coffs Harbour camp, Cordner said he was proud of the strides Pearce has made and the way he harnessed the criticism swirling around him.
“He’s used all of that negativity and where he was last year as motivation,” Cordner said.
“You could see it in his footy at the end of last year and also at the start of this year.”
The side trained in the wet at Coffs Harbour on Tuesday and Pearce looked sharp in the unfamiliar position of five-eighth.
Even in the bad conditions, his combination with right-edge backline teammates Josh Morris and Will Hopoate seemed to be coming along nicely.
Roosters and NSW teammate Michael Jennings said adapting to a new position would be nothing for the Roosters No.7.
“He’s a natural player so adapting to six will be nothing at all … He’s got a lot of composure,” Jennings said.
“He’s in form which is a plus.
“He’s worked well with a few of the boys already and he’s had that experience in the Origin side so he’ll be fine.”