ASSISTANT COACH: Mate, Mitchell Pearce is struggling. I don’t think he’s first grade standard.
HEAD COACH: Yeah, but his Dad was really good.
AC: Shit, forgot about that.
HC: Yeah, I’m going to keep him in because I liked watching his dad play in the 1980s.
AC: You know you might get sacked if we keep losing?
HC: Yeah, but come on mate, his dad was awesome.
AC: You’re right, keep him in.
If you were to believe the Twitter universe and the average opposing (and occasional Roosters) fan, this conversation, or variations of it, has been repeated among seven coaching staffs since 2007, when Mitchell Pearce made his debut.
Since that time, Chris Anderson, Brad Fittler and Brian Smith have been sacked by the Roosters thanks to the under-performance of their squads, while Craig Bellamy, Ricky Stuart and now Laurie Daley all selected the halfback for State of Origin and ultimately left the arena with not a single series win between them.
But according to some people, Mitchell Pearce is only in the NSW squad because of his name.
It’s an argument so ridiculous and so sub-mental that it really shouldn’t need to be argued, but this writer was caught in a Twitter back-and-forth with some dropkick about the very merits of the statement.
He ended the argument by saying “I don’t care what you think” before presumably going away to chew a crayon and eat his own boogers.
But his is an argument I’ve heard countless times among many others, arguments bereft of facts or decent analysis that would elevate any argument beyond name-calling. There are legitimate criticisms of Mitch, which I will discuss below. But the Pearce/Father argument is plain dumb and deserves all the ridicule in the world.
So let’s just de-bunk that obvious myth as well as several other dumb arguments made in the wake of game three. Again, I’ll try and use facts to back up my arguments in an effort to separate them from those made up by fans who’ve come to their conclusions by reading letter combinations in alphabet soup.
“He’s there because of his dad”.
Coaching is one of the most pressure filled jobs there is, and rare is it that a coach actually sees out a contract before being fired. Coaches, therefore, will try anything when looking down the barrel of unemployment.
Brad Fittler tried using Braith Anasta as a fullback, Chris Anderson trialled a one-marker ploy and abandoned it after one game despite the team training to it all pre-season, and Ricky Stuart dumped Jamie Soward and Josh Lewis after one game.
Clearly, coaches will try anything to get the win, to further a well-paying career after their athletic primes have passed. But the common theme among all the above points is that Mitchell Pearce has never been dropped from first grade.
If you think that a coach would risk his career by only playing Mitchell due to some ridiculous sentimental attachment to watching his dad run around in 1989, you’re an idiot. Coaches would drop him in a heartbeat if he wasn’t performing or if there was a better option, and names don’t matter.
You’ve seen what Ricky did with Chris Sandow this year; what Steve Price did with Soward; and what the Panthers did last year with Michael Jennings. Coaches will do whatever they deem necessary — and given the history of MP7’s coaches at all levels, you’d think at least one coach would abandon their love of his name and drop him.
Other father-son rugby league first grade combinations include Eric Grothe Snr and Jr, Rod and Joel Reddy, and Steve and the Morris Twins. All four sons of famous fathers have suffered the indignity of being dropped throughout their careers — even Eric Grothe Junior, whose dad is arguably remembered with greater fondness by the general public than Wayne Pearce.
And just to finish it off: ever heard of Daniel Mortimer? Weren’t his dad and uncle kinda famous?
If we’re going off the “famous name” argument, it’s amazing Pearce and Morts weren’t the NSW halves pairing.
It’s an argument many opposing fans and even some Roosters fans cling to like algae to a rock. But just because a lot of people make the same argument, doesn’t mean it’s not a dumb argument.
“Bring someone new in, he’s had his chance.”
Besides Adam Reynolds, who has played all of 43 games in the NRL, who else is there?
The other options are as follows: Luke Walsh, Albert Kelly, Peter Wallace, Jarrod Mullen/Tyrone Roberts, Jamie Soward, Josh McCrone, Trent Hodkinson, Jeff Robson, Curtis Sironen and Luke Kelly.
That’s the list. Clearly, Mitchell Pearce continues to be picked for State of Origin because he’s the best option at the moment.
Now, this may change next season with the continued rise of Adam Reynolds, but this season and in the 12 games he’s played for NSW he has been the best option.
People think just because you magically replace a player the team will do better — and the idea is that Adam Reynolds’ kicking game is all the Blues need. And they may be right. But to throw him into the cauldron this year would have been unfair and far too early for a player who hasn’t even played 50 NRL games. And this writer doubts whether the result would have been any different.
You could also argue Kelly would make a better player at that level. But he’s been kicked out of more clubs than Lindsay Lohan and clearly there must be a waiting period there to see if he’s mature enough.
As it stands, MP7 is the best NSW has at the moment. The results haven’t gone his way, sure, but nor have they for any NSW player for 80 per cent of a decade.
Remember, people were calling for Paul Gallen to never play for NSW again after a series of penalties which many people believe cost NSW a series win in 2008. In a News Limited article from back then, it was said that:
Under pressure to reel in his aggressive and contentious playing style, Gallen has ridiculed suggestions his on-field antics cost NSW the State of Origin series, and also spoke of his passion to stay on as Cronulla captain.
Angry NSW supporters blamed Gallen’s lack of discipline as a major factor behind the Blues’ loss to Queensland on Wednesday night, after he gave away three crucial penalties.
His approach led Cronulla coach Ricky Stuart to admit there was pressure from within the club to stand Gallen down as captain.
People forget that shit pretty easily though. Speaking of shit…
“Mitchell Pearce is shit.”
That’s all subjective — and while he didn’t have a great game three, this writer will continue to disagree with that assertion.
For one, anyone who watched the Roosters-Sharks round 19 clash cannot honestly say that he isn’t a good rugby league player. He now has 17 try assists for the season, while Reynolds has 22 — and Reynolds carries a much greater burden for his team as John Sutton and Greg Inglis are the only other real creators for that squad. The Chooks have Sonny Bill, James Maloney and now Jake Friend all capable of creating opportunities off their own bat, as well as far more individual brilliance across the park.
Whether he is “Origin material” is another question, and after four series defeats it’s a legitimate one. But until we see someone like Reynolds on that stage — and this writer believes Reynolds will get the gig next year given his exponential improvement in his all-around game since the start of the year — it’s a moot point.
Unless you can back something up with a decent argument or facts, then you’re just making yourself come off stupid. And there are a couple of arguments against Mitchell that are worth repeating here as examples of well-thought out discussion points.
Phil Gould says MP7 plays with a franticness, and there is merit in that. His former coach Brian Smith says he struggles with the decision-making when straying from the pre-game strategy.
These are decent arguments, and if the discourse was at this level across the board, the world would be a better place. But instead it devolves into “he’s shit” and “he’s there because of his dad”.
“Robbie Farah played poorly because he didn’t trust Mitch.”
This is perhaps the most absurd argument of them all, one which Twitter extraordinaire Anthony Bryant (@bryo6) pointed out to me. The full piece can be found here, but I’ll give you the Farah section this dude wrote:
Was surprised to see the amount of bagging Farah copped in online comments sections following the Blues loss. He certainly had his worst game of the series, and some of his options were terrible, but not all of that was of his own making. Following Origin I I wrote a column dedicated to Farah’s class and play, and I mentioned that he was at his worst when he tries to do too much. Wednesday night was a classic example of this. The captaincy no doubt was a factor, but really I think Farah’s game can be read as a vote of no confidence in Mitchell Pearce, who once again showed zero sign of being up to the task.
(I’ll give you a moment to stop laughing.)
(Still going? OK, another moment or two.)
(Done? OK, back to the story.)
What I think he was trying to say here, and forgive me if I’m as wrong as he is, but what he’s saying is that Robbie did not trust his halfback so he took it upon himself to try and get something going. If that’s the case, fine.
But he’s also saying the guy who touches the ball first after every tackle:threw three passes 10 metres behind the catcher, kicked the ball six times on the fourth despite well-earned momentum, let in a try, lacked any awareness of lax marker play, provided poor service all game and, to top it all off, kicked on the first with 40 seconds to go, because of Pearce.
What a load of shit.
It’s arguments like these that give arguments a bad name. Arguments don’t have to be hostile: typically it’s just two people making different points. But it’s hard not to laugh at an argument as lame as this or even get a little pissed off at the assertion, no matter how dumb said assertion sounds.
Oh, and in addition: that guy gave Farah a 7 rating. Seriously, you couldn’t make this up. Well, actually, apparently you can.
Mitchell Pearce lost them the game.
He did not win them the game, true. His execution was way off and didn’t capitalise on a few occasions near the line.
(Neither did Farah or James Maloney.)
But he certainly did not lose them the game. He did not miss a tackle that led to a try (that was messrs Farah, Tamou and Hoffman), he didn’t give away a penalty, and he dropped the ball just once. Hoffman also tackled Billy Slater in the air, Farah declined to take a penalty goal attempt twice when in range (for the record, the Blues lost by two), Dugan dropped a perfect offload with the line begging which would have levelled it up had he scored, Watmough dropped the ball on the play the ball in his own half, McManus dropped the ball twice and Jennings dropped it thrice.
But who am I to back up Mitch on this?
From Paul Kent:
NOBODY will do it rougher this week than Mitch Pearce, whose criticisms are wildly out of proportion to his performance. Pearce didn’t drop the ball with the line open, get held up, or miss the tackles that led to Queensland tries. What has been overlooked is that Pearce is the best NSW halfback in the NRL, a claim that includes Adam Reynolds right now. And nobody tries harder.
Or take it from Peter Sterling, who sarcastically said on The Sunday Footy Show that the NSW team lost “all because of Pearce” and in the process having a jab at the online critics and keyboard warriors, before going on to say that the criticism headed his way was lopsided.
He then said (to paraphrase): “I’d understand if he dropped the ball all the time or let in three tries, but he didn’t, and he did not lose them the game. Give the kid a break.”
But what the hell would they know?
This is the last time this writer will mention Mitchell Pearce and State of Origin this year. But it’s doubtful that anyone else will do so, and the arguments can literally be broken down into the arguments made above. Some arguments against Pearce have merit, and questions do need to be asked about whether he has the ability to deal with the pressure in big games — a question we may be able to answer better in October.
But some of the arguments are patently ridiculous — based largely on a hatred of the Roosters or being shamelessly invented so the ill-informed can make an argument when they don’t have any evidence to back it up.
If only the arguments were as measured and analytical as those made by Gould and Smith. Instead, we get “he’s there because of his name”.