Pearce cops it because ‘that’s what NSW people do’
Blues star James Maloney has gone into bat for his halves partner Mitchell Pearce, claiming the recalled halfback has been made a scapegoat for past Origin defeats.
Maloney bristled yesterday at how maligned Pearce had been over his 18-game State of Origin, saying: "I'd love to see him right a few wrongs."
"You get it wrong, they hammer you," Cleary said. "But you can't keep a good guy down. He's back."
Pearce looked settled yesterday as he trained with NSW for the first time since his stunning recall to the Blues for the first time since 2017.
"It's always unfair but that's Origin," Maloney said.
"Nathan (Cleary) and Cody (Walker) copped a hammering after one game.
"That's what NSW people do. You get it wrong they hammer you."
Pearce and Maloney were at the helm in 2017 when, 1-0 up in the series and leading 16-6, the Blues choked at home to go down 18-16 before going on to lose the series.
"Mitchell has copped a lot of unfair criticism and he has been a scapegoat when things have gone wrong. It wasn't always deserved and it wasn't all on him," Maloney said.
"He wears it and has always handled it. You've got to admire his ability to move past it and continue to move on and play really good footy. I'd love to see him get the job here and right a few wrongs."
Maloney is adamant Pearce's move to Newcastle has improved his halves partner's game.
"Any criticism of him was always about game management. But you see him up at Newcastle doing exactly that for them each week," Maloney said.
"Going to a side like that, where that leadership roles falls on his shoulders, it's been good for him.
"Pearcey has been there plenty of times before and he knows what's coming and what is going to happen. He'll be fine.
"As hard as the move from the Chooks was for him, I think it has probably taken him out of his comfort zone. It's something new and I dare say he is learning a fair bit."
Maloney played second receiver with Pearce at the Roosters but was unsure how the combination will function on Wednesday night.
"Originally, when the news first happened, you're shattered for Nathan (Cleary)," Maloney said. "But then you have to move on and Mitchell and I have played plenty of football together.
"Most blokes in this side will most probably have played some footy with Mitch at different points. He will come in and do a job and make sure get the job done.
"I will just play the same game I always play. Nothing will change from my perspective. We have played enough together so there won't be any clashing over who is doing what.
"We know each other's games really well. We will just fall into what we have done in the past. He hasn't missed a beat and hasn't seemed like an outside coming in. We already have a game plan and game style that suits."
Maloney and Pearce have similar lighthearted personalities and remain staunch mates away from footy.
Pearce attending Maloney's wedding to wife Jess.
"I know Jimmy really went - I went to his wedding. If you get invited to someone's wedding, they mist like you," Pearce said. "He might look after me. Playing with Jimmy was always enjoyable and we did have a lot of success.
"I have played with Jimmy plenty of times and he really ran the show the last time. He would be really confident leading the boys. I'm sure whatever style they want me to play I will be able to deliver it.
Maloney added: "Mitchell is good fun to have around, he enjoys a laugh. He's fun to have around the place. We don't catch up all the time but every time we see each other it's like we saw each other yesterday."