Mitchell Pearce is not a liability, according to the Sydney Roosters, who predict he will return from his layoff a wiser player after enjoying a stint in the coach’s box.
The Tri-colours’ playmaker has been cleared of a hamstring injury and is assured of starting in Friday’s high-stakes NRL preliminary final against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.
After four weeks of intense scrutiny and will-he or won’t-he speculation, and a false start last week when he failed to complete the side’s last training session, he will be back with a spot in the grand final on the line.
While Pearce has been forced to sit on the sidelines at the pointy end of the season, coach Trent Robinson is confident the layoff has not blunted the side’s linchpin.
In fact, Robinson says he’s benefited from it.
During his rehabilitation, Pearce sat with Robinson on game day in the coach’s box gaining a bird’s-eye view of the game.
“I think his clarity about the game should be played and about how he wants to play is much better,” Robinson said.
Robinson said seeing the game from a different vantage point had given his No.7 new perspective and would only improve his game.
“That’s what a halfback has to do – play the play and they’ve got to have a bird’s-eye view whilst on the field,” Robinson said.
“We couldn’t get him game time and he couldn’t train but his education didn’t stop.”
Robinson said Pearce did not represent a liability and he expected him to come back at a full gallop.
“He’s one of the fittest guys I’ve seen in rugby league so I’m not worried about that,” Robinson said.
“Just getting his combos right with guys around him that he knows well and getting his touch is probably his main thing.
“We’ve tried to get that with a lot of opposed (sessions) in the last couple of days.
“But I guess that’s a question he’ll have to answer on Friday.”