Pearce Still Has A Lot To Offer: Sterling
Former Blues halfback Peter Sterling says the door is still open for Mitchell Pearce to make a return to the NSW State of Origin side.
The talented 27-year-old has played 15 matches for the Blues but missed the 2016 series following his Australia Day indiscretions that resulted in an eight-week suspension to start the season.
Pearce has only registered four victories against the once-in-a-generation Queensland side and has often been made the scapegoat for his side's losses, but Sterling said the Roosters halfback was still in the frame for NSW selection.
He will face stiff competition for a Blues jersey in 2017 with incumbent halves James Maloney and Matt Moylan impressing on the Four Nations tour, while Adam Reynolds – who missed Game III through injury – will also be in contention, as will uncapped stars Blake Austin and Nathan Cleary.
Pearce, who has worn the No.7 jersey in 12 of his 15 Origin appearances – overcame injuries to play a starring role for the Roosters in the back end of last season and will be on the selectors' radar if he can keep that form up.
"I'd love to see him back in contention for sure. He's got a lot to offer," Sterling said.
"We know that he's had some problems, but when it comes to what he can do on the football field then there's never been any question about that.
"It'll be dependent on how he starts the season, where his headspace is and how well he's playing, and when it comes to the number sevens, he's right up there with the very best of them and he's had plenty of experience so that will put him in very strong contention."
Sterling said there was no denying Pearce's ability on the field and is confident his eight-game suspension has set him straight away from the field as well.
"I know it's a bit of a cliché but he's a great bloke. I know that that only goes so far and there are certain areas that he's had to address and hopefully he will have done that," the former Eels great said.
"He copped a kick up the backside this year, and it was one that was obviously needed, but if his head's right then his game is there.
"We just need proof that he's learnt from past mistakes and that he's ready to maybe take that next step again to really become one of our elite players and one of our leaders, because I know it's there; it's just got to come to the fore more so than it has in the past."
Sterling said he'd be happy to sit down with Pearce to discuss what it would take to get back in the Origin team, but admitted there were other people better placed to help the Roosters halfback.
"I don't know if that's my role [but] I'm happy to," Sterling said.
"I think Trent Robinson – his club coach – has got a pretty good idea of what Mitchell Pearce should be doing on the paddock, so I don't want to be stepping on anybody's toes.
"But if there is an avenue to have a little bit of a chat about parts of his game [I'd be open to that]. I think Andrew Johns has done work with him as well and may do so again."
Blues coach Laurie Daley has publicly supported Pearce in the past and said the halfback's wellbeing was the most pressing issue going forward.
"Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can get back up," Daley said.
"From all reports Mitch is going really well. He's training the house down with the Roosters and he's really turned his life around.
"I think we all know that Mitch is a really good kid. Obviously he's made some mistakes over the last couple of years, but he's still got plenty in front of him.
"I just want to see Mitch get settled in life – which he is at the moment – and go out and play some really good footy for the Roosters. Whatever happens after that is a bonus."
This article first appeared on NRL.com