So Mitchell Pearce wasn’t selected for NSW, with Laurie Daley telling reporters that his boozy night in the Cross was “taken into consideration” when he decided to go with Trent Hodkinson.
If that is the case, fine. It’s a firm line in the sand that drunken buffoonery won’t be tolerated by the coach. But he cannot now have a beer-based bonding session to get all 17 guys on the same page. He just can’t. He cannot punish a booze-feulled mistake and then try to bond while on the potential path to one.
Pearce was suspended a game and fined $20,000 by his club — a hefty price on its own. He’s on good money, but having $20,000 deducted from incoming finances is a big, unexpected blow to anyone’s wallet and financial plans for that year. It’s the cost of a fucking Toyota.
He had the media waiting in trees, hovering overhead in helicopters and sitting outside his house like he’s the bloke from Hey Dad. His name was dragged through the mud and Channel 9 whipped up a frenzy when they pre-empted the release of the purchased, supposedly-embarrassing yet unsurprisingly anti-climactic footage of a non-event by telling anyone with ears that (to paraphrase) “he could be in some real trouble here”.
He was then stood down for a game in which his club was thoroughly smashed. They needed his kicking game, they needed direction, they needed their halfback. And he wasn’t there.
He has now lost his Origin jersey. That’s $30,000 a game. All up, he won’t see $110,000 that, two weeks ago, he would have when Daley had him stencilled in as the Blues halfback.
And to top it off, he has to go to training with James Maloney, who lost his spot as well because Daley has a weird thing about combinations and had to drop him because he dropped Pearce.
That is one heckuva punishment for arguing with a cop.
Some believe that perhaps Daley wanted a change, and if that was the case, it’d also be fine. Except it isn’t the case. Two weeks ago Pearce and Maloney were the halves. Pearce played in just one game since then, against the Tigers. He perhaps had his worst game of the season, but Maloney had his best.
If one poor game is enough to lose a guaranteed spot, then how come Tupou and Jennings got the start after the loss to the Cowboys on Saturday? Don’t get me wrong, they deserved their spot, wholeheartedly. But to say one game cost Pearce his jersey is incorrect because it didn’t cost those guys, thus proving that his spot was lost thanks to his indiscretion.
This is a player who transformed himself and his approach to the sport after the disappointment of Game III, a player who proved his big game wares on the road to the Grand Final last year. He rose above the many barbs that were thrown his way, and led his club to the promised land after 11 long, loooooong years. But one boozy indiscretion has led to a punishment that far outweighs any crime he purportedly committed.
Mitchell blundered, and this is not me trying to undersell the mistake he made, nor is it saying Hodkinson was the wrong choice. This is not a question about whether their form warranted selection or not, either.
This is about a kid who messed up and has paid the ultimate price, and then some. And it’s a harsh lesson to learn again after he learned it all of last week.
But you know what? If Daley truly has drawn a line in the sand, then more power to him. It’s clear that these incidents won’t be tolerated, and the booze culture needs to stop. But that starts with stopping the booze, completely. Daley needs to stay behind that line now, and if any of his players bond over an ale or 10, then he’s effectively pissed on it.
Stand by the line and own it. Unlike the coach he’ll come up against.
The less said about Mal Meninga’s snarky comments aimed at Pearce, the better. After all, he’s the bloke who once said “the game gave him nothing”… besides, you know, a career that’s ongoing.
It takes a special kind of nerve to talk about commitment to a cause when you walk out of a job as a politician after 28 seconds. And it takes balls the size of pumpkins to talk about booze when you got booted from a pub 12 months ago.
The sad part is that he truly believes what he says. Reality has been unable to puncture than Queensland-sized bubble he lives in, a bubble in which the media give a standing ovation to coaches who walk into press conferences after a win, and lets him get away with talking about a pick-and-stick policy before dropping Dave Taylor after the next game.
Whatever. I’ll back Mitchell Pearce to prove people wrong and turn around his season. I’ll back him to be a more honest man than Mal Meninga has ever been. I’ll back a player who can front his mistakes and try to learn from them, rather than a bloke who pretends no-one remembers his.
Or maybe people like me should stop giving a damn about what Meninga says. The game gave him nothing anyway.