Pearce the playmaking king of NRL finals

Welcome to Mitchell Pearce’s favourite month of the year: September.

Because it’s finals time, and that’s when the Sydney Roosters halfback truly comes to the fore.

Numbers show that of all the current halves in the NRL to have played more than five finals games, Pearce has the highest winning strike-rate of any this decade at 67 per cent.

Higher than James Maloney’s 59 per cent, Cooper Cronk’s 57, Daly Cherry-Evans’ 46 and even Johnathan Thurston, who languishes on 46 per cent.

That’s right: the man so often maligned for not handling the big stage of State of Origin football, who has a record of zero series win from seven attempts for NSW, is the king of guiding his club team home when it matters most in September.

“These are the games we want to play for,” Pearce said ahead of Saturday’s preliminary final against North Queensland.

“Everything before this is a dress rehearsal, unless you finish first no one remembers.

“Everyone wants to win the comp and we’re one game away from getting an opportunity to have a crack at that.”

If the Roosters do reign triumphant on October 1, Pearce and five-eighth Luke Keary will become just the second and third players this century to have won two legal premierships in the halves.

Pearce’s 2013 partner Maloney currently has that feat to himself, while Cronk’s titles in 2007 and 2009 came as a part of Melbourne premierships which were later stripped due to the salary cap saga.

Pearce is now playing in his sixth finals series since his debut in 2008, but his passage to this year’s end-of-season games has been a little more challenging that most.

The fallout from the Blues’ 11th series loss in 12 years has lingered longer in 2017.

“Too long,” Pearce was quick to tell a few television types at a press call this week.

While the attention has largely centred around Laurie Daley’s sacking and the behaviour of Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan, Pearce’s name is never far from the spotlight.

“It’s always disappointing,” he said of the Blues’ Origin capitulation.

“I’m a winner, I want to win. I’m a competitor, we didn’t win so it obviously hurts.

“It definitely takes it out of you, the Origin. It’s a draining period and if you don’t win it’s certainly draining. But life goes on.”

As headlines swirled questioning whether he could ever add to his 18-game Origin tally, Pearce made use of a Roosters bye weekend after the series loss to get away to Fiji.

It helped, but he admitted he still went through a customary post-Origin lull before gearing up for the finals.

“I think everyone goes through that draining period, that round 20-23, it’s always a bit tough,” Pearce said.

“But lucky we were getting results and were winning. You’ve got to go through that slog to get into the finals.”

Around him, Roosters players insist they haven’t noticed a difference.

While most would have eventually been shot down by the continual batterings, Pearce is still the happy-go-lucky character who drives much of the Roosters’ enthusiasm and energy.

“He’s a real big person that sort of stuff,” winger Daniel Tupou said.

“He doesn’t look fatigued or anything of the sort. He still looks refreshed. His back end of the season has been on fire for us and that’s played a massive part in our club.

“He’s a big factor for us this weekend.”

And Roosters teammates say they wouldn’t want any other man guiding them come finals time..

“His form has been unreal for us still,” co-captain Boyd Cordner said.

“He’s always there in the clutch moments for us and his attitude around training is second to none. He’s a leader in our team and all the boys look up to him.

“He’s experienced, especially in finals footy. I wouldn’t want to have any other player there. I want him as my halfback that’s for sure.”

CURRENT PLAYMAKERS NRL FINALS RECORDS SINCE 2010:

Mitchell Pearce: 8-4 (67 per cent)

Michael Morgan 8-5 (62 per cent)

James Maloney : 10-7 (59 per cent)

Cooper Cronk: 8-6 (57 per cent)

Anthony Milford 4-3 (57 per cent)

* Players with more than five finals matches experience

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
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