NSW coach Laurie Daley has kept the door ajar for troubled playmaker Mitchell Pearce to return to the Blues line-up for this year’s State of Origin series.
As Pearce nervously waits to learn what sanction he will cop over his Australia Day antics, NSWRL powerbrokers are also waiting before making a call on his immediate future in a Blues jumper.
However in a positive sign for the Roosters halfback, Daley said on Monday he had not yet seriously considered options without Pearce in this year’s series.
Asked whether he had started on contingency plans in case Pearce was unavailable through suspension or dropped, Daley said: “Not really, no.
“Once the season starts, we start to analyse the performances of every player and start to work our way through where we’re at and see how the incumbents are going.
“That’s when we see how the next tier underneath them are going, marry them all up, then in 10-11 weeks time come up with a squad to take on Queensland.”
Daley said he had contacted Pearce upon his highly-anticipated return to Sydney on Sunday following a month in an overseas rehabilitation clinic to address alcohol issues.
“I texted him because, you feel for people when they go through down times in their careers,” he said.
“But it’s up to Mitch now to work hard, as he said, to gain people’s trust back and show everyone that he’s recovered and in a good headspace.
“Hopefully that will lead to him looking after himself.”
The video shot of a drunk Pearce, which included him simulating a sex act with a dog, is likely to incur a heavy fine, as well as a six-game suspension from the NRL.
A return in round seven would give him just a month to impress Daley and his coaching staff enough to show that he was ready to take on the Maroons.
But should the NSWRL sanction Pearce as well, Daley would be forced to reach into the state’s depth to partner incumbent halfback Trent Hodkinson.
That list includes Hodkinson’s new clubmate Jarrod Mullen, Canberra pair Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer, Canterbury pivot Josh Reynolds, and South Sydney No.7 Adam Reynolds.
“There’s plenty of depth in all positions. For us right now, it’s not worrying about what our next side’s going to be, we’ll worry about that the day before we select it,” Daley said.
Daley was also unconcerned by a knee injury to vice-captain Robbie Farah that could also keep him out of action until just one month before the Game I team gets named after round 11.
“I’ve already spoken to Robbie. He’ll miss 3-4 weeks and he’s a quick healer anyway. That’s no dramas,” he said.