NSW coach Laurie Daley says recalled playmaker Mitchell Pearce is relaxed and stress-free as State of Origin’s opener looms.
Reinstated to the side after missing last year’s long-awaited series win, Pearce enters Wednesday’s first match at ANZ Stadium under more pressure to perform than any other Blues player.
But Daley said the Sydney Roosters halfback, who will play at five-eighth alongside the out-of-sorts Trent Hodkinson, slotted seamlessly back into the team at the Blues’ camp in Coffs Harbour.
“I think he’s excited to be back, and he’s just a guy who’s really at ease with himself,” he said.
“What will be, will be.
“I don’t think he’s putting too much expectation on himself, which is great.
“We certainly haven’t placed any expectation on Mitch, we just want him to do his job for the team.
“If he does that, I’ll be extremely happy.”
It’s no secret Pearce has been widely slated for being unable to convert his club form to representative level.
The 26-year-old’s critics refer to his Origin record 12 games, three wins, nine losses and zero series victories before he was axed last year following a late-night incident in Kings Cross.
His recall last week followed some stellar 2015 form as one of the best halves in the NRL this year, making Pearce the equal most experienced player in this Blues side alongside Roosters teammate Michael Jennings.
“He brings a lot of experience, and he brings a good kicking game,” Daley said.
“He’s enthusiastic, and he wants to play well for the team.”
News that Pearce is feeling at ease will come as good news to his teammates, who have spoken before about how the playmaker’s state of mind can affect his game.
Departed NSW star Jarryd Hayne wrote on Monday that Pearce can over-think his game when he feels the weight of expectation on his shoulders.
“I’ve been in camps with him. He puts a hell of a lot of pressure on himself. More than he should,” Hayne wrote in a column for Fairfax media.
“Having played alongside him and watched him dominate in games, I know what he is capable of producing when he is relaxed.
“When he is relaxed and not worried about anything, he carves up.
“That’s what he needs to be on Wednesday night. Relaxed.”