NSW coach Laurie Daley has got it wrong by excluding Mitchell Pearce from the Blues side for State of Origin III, according to Andrew Johns.
Daley said he considered calling up Sydney Roosters star Pearce for game three, after halfback Adam Reynolds was ruled out of Wednesday’s match due to a shoulder injury.
Instead, Penrith’s Matt Moylan was recalled to the Blues line-up.
The Panthers skipper will play off the bench, with Jack Bird to start in the halves alongside his Cronulla teammate James Maloney.
Daley said Pearce wasn’t drafted in, because he didn’t want to put undue pressure on him.
On the Nine Network’s Sunday Footy Show, Blues great and Roosters halves coach Johns said that was the wrong call.
“Pearce was right to go, there are no dramas there fitness wise,” Johns said.
“In my opinion yes (he should have been selected.”
Pearce has starred in his comeback from a calf injury in the Roosters’ past two matches, despite the Tricolours suffering consecutive defeats.
The former Blues playmaker, who was a feature of the Blues side for the entire 2015 series, has only played five games this NRL season.
He was suspended for eight games at the start of the year due to his Australia Day antics and struck calf trouble three games into his return.
“He went away, he confronted those problems and he hasn’t had a drink since,” said Johns.
However Brad Fittler said Pearce’s off-field indiscretions may have counted against him when Daley was weighing up his selection options for game three.
Pearce was excluded from the NSW side in 2014, in a disciplinary move taken after off-field dramas.
“You are just thinking about the footy but you haven’t been involved from a personal point of view, with Origin with Laurie,” Fittler said on the Sunday Footy Show in reply to Johns’ comments.
“I think the start of the year hurt his chances as much as anything.
“The fact he has played a couple of good games for the Roosters doesn’t (matter).”
Speaking on the same program Queensland great Wally Lewis said regardless Pearce would be in the frame for Blues selection in 2017.
“What he has indicated on the field since has come back is that if they are calling on his services, he won’t disappoint, he has the talent,” Lewis said.
The Blues returned to Sydney from their Coffs Harbour training base on Sunday afternoon ahead of the dead rubber at ANZ Stadium and will have an opposed session against the NSW under 20s in the evening.