Canterbury coach Des Hasler has put the heat on his Sydney Roosters counterpart Trent Robinson, warning him that “rolling the dice” on Mitchell Pearce’s fitness could backfire.
On the eve of Friday night’s do-or-die NRL semi-final, the savvy mentor tossed a smoke bomb at the Tri-colours by reminding them of the consequences of fielding their injured co-captain.
Pearce has missed the past three weeks with a hamstring injury.
Robinson named Pearce at halfback in place of Jackson Hastings on Tuesday but is rated only a 50/50 chance of taking the field at Allianz Stadium.
Hasler warned the Roosters – even if they beat the Bulldogs – risk losing Pearce for the rest of the finals series should he start and aggravate the injury.
“In this particular case, it’s a big call because if you roll that dice and it doesn’t pay off, then you could hamper that individual’s inclusion in the finals series severely,” Hasler said on Thursday.
“It’s a big call, but that’s for them to make. I’m sure they’ll be guided by medical advice and the risk analysis that goes into it. It’s a pretty big decision.”
However with a preliminary final on the line, Hasler said he was bracing his team for the halfback’s inclusion.
“You can only do what you can, but you prepare for a player like Mitchell to play,” Hasler said.
“At the same time, the replacement player in Hastings, he’s been doing an outstanding job.
“But if there’s any way Mitchell could possibly play, he will, given the gravity of what the game is about and what’s at stake.”
Hasler – who is without halfback Trent Hodkinson for the rest of the season – said that even if Pearce carried the injury into the game, his presence alone would lift a side still smarting from their qualifying defeat to Melbourne last week.
“His kicking game might be a bit limited (but) just his presence out there, he’s their leader,” he said.”
The Bulldogs have had their own health concerns this week, with Hasler confirming that a couple of players had been quarantined from the squad due to a virus.
The two-time premiership-winning coach refused to divulge which players had missed training sessions, but assured no one was in doubt for the match.
“They’ve been a bit ill, but they’ll be right,” he said.
The winner takes on Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium for a place in the grand final.