Andrew Johns has backed Mitchell Pearce to make his return to the State of Origin arena.
The nib Newcastle Knights No.7 has worn the sky blue for NSW on 18 occasions for only five wins but Johns believes past results shouldn’t be held against him.
Pearce has earned more criticism than praise across his Blues career but Johns believes Pearce is very much in the Origin picture in 2019.
“Definitely. I think Mitchell at that level is a better five-eighth, a better second receiver,” Johns told Wide World of Sports.
“They could go Luke Keary and Mitchell, or Nathan Cleary and Mitchell. He’s in there for sure. I know Freddy (Blues coach Brad Fittler) is a big fan of him.”
Pearce, 29, had an injury-hit 2018 season but is tipped to have a big 2019.
Slotting alongside new halves partner Kalyn Ponga, the Knights are expecting big things this year.
“I think they’ll make the eight, they’ve signed some really good players. David Klemmer’s a really good buy for them,” Johns said.
“Mitchell and Kalyn, word’s getting back that they’re killing it at training. Last year, if Mitchell Pearce didn’t get injured, they would have been in the top eight for sure. If Mitchell’s there and Kalyn’s there for a big chunk of the season, they definitely make the eight.”