The Sydney Roosters are rallying around Mitchell Pearce after NSW’s drubbing in State of Origin III, saying he remains a semi-finals specialist.
Due to his role in the team, the Blues and Roosters playmaker will wear his fair share of criticism for NSW’s capitulation in the record-breaking 52-6 loss at Suncorp Stadium.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said his teammates were lending their support to Pearce and fellow NSW squad members Boyd Cordner and Michael Jennings to ensure they didn’t drop their heads as they entered the business end of the NRL season.
Pearce has harnessed Origin disappointment in a positive way before – after playing in NSW’s losing series in 2013 he went on to lead his club to the premiership.
Robinson said a more mature Pearce was better equipped to deal with defeat than in previous seasons and was ready to lead the Roosters’ charge into the final nine rounds of the regular season.
“We decided to make him captain and that means he can handle things himself and he can also affect others in the way that he leads,” Robinson said. “I definitely think he’s well placed to play his best footy at the back end of this season.
“Mitchell loves this part of the year and he’ll stand up.”
Pearce and fellow Blues Cordner and Jennings along with Queensland’s Aidan Guerra returned to Roosters’ training on Friday in the wake of the Maroons’ 46-point win in the Origin decider.
All four are expected to back up against Penrith at Pepper Stadium on Saturday.
“I think it’s important that they get back on the field this week,” Robinson said. “If you ask the question `is it the right thing physically, the answer is probably no’.
“Of course it’s better to recover for 10 days and play next weekend. But they’re fighters and they want to get back on the park. Part of the healing is going out and performing for their club.”
Robinson said while all of his Origin contingent probably needed a break physically, they needed a hit out for their mental state and the club planned to rest them at different stages over the next month.
“It will happen over the next month or so,” Robinson said. “You’ve got to respect the Origin players and they want to back up and play.
“It’s getting harder and more intense. Not just the game but also the emotional build up to a game. It takes its toll.
“The NRL competition gets harder and faster as well. We’ve got to make sure we’re getting them right not just for each week but the back end of the season as well.”