Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson says playmaker Mitchell Pearce is a 60 per cent chance of being picked to take on Canterbury in Friday’s NRL elimination semi-final.
Pearce is racing the clock to recover from a hamstring injury that has kept him out of action for the past three weeks and will undergo a final fitness test on Thursday during the side’s captain’s run.
Robinson said he was encouraged after Pearce ran with the side earlier in the day, the halfback showing positive signs with his speed and long kicking.
“I was pretty confident at the start of the week of his development,” Robinson said.
“I just want to see that bit against opposed players, that’s the last little bit.”
Robinson admitted playing Pearce less than fully fit was a risky proposition and one he would have to weigh up with club physio Travis Touma.
“That’s the question I’ve had to ask – if we do play him what’s the risk of reinjury?” Robinson said.
“There’s two parts. Making sure his performance is right and that’s been pretty good up until now.
“Then there’s the assessment on whether the risk is too great of reinjuring it.”
Canterbury coach Des Hasler earlier on Thursday put the heat on his Sydney Roosters counterpart, warning him that “rolling the dice” on Pearce’s fitness could backfire.
The savvy mentor tossed a smoke bomb at the Tri-colours by reminding them of the consequences of fielding their injured co-captain.
Hasler warned the Roosters – even if they beat the Bulldogs – risk losing Pearce for the rest of the finals series should he start and aggravate the injury.
“In this particular case, it’s a big call because if you roll that dice and it doesn’t pay off, then you could hamper that individual’s inclusion in the finals series severely,” Hasler said.
“It’s a big call, but that’s for them to make. I’m sure they’ll be guided by medical advice and the risk analysis that goes into it. It’s a pretty big decision.”
However with a preliminary final on the line, Hasler said he was bracing his team for the halfback’s inclusion.
“At the same time, the replacement player in (Jackson) Hastings, he’s been doing an outstanding job,” Hasler said.
“But if there’s any way Mitchell could possibly play, he will, given the gravity of what the game is about and what’s at stake.”
Hasler – who is without halfback Trent Hodkinson for the rest of the season – said that even if Pearce carried the injury into the game, his presence alone would lift a side still smarting from their qualifying defeat to Melbourne last week.
“His kicking game might be a bit limited (but) just his presence out there, he’s their leader,” he said.”
The Bulldogs have had their own health concerns this week, with Hasler confirming that a couple of players had been quarantined from the squad due to a virus.
The two-time premiership-winning coach refused to divulge which players had missed training sessions, but assured no one was in doubt for the match.
“They’ve been a bit ill, but they’ll be right,” he said.
The winner takes on Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium for a place in the grand final.