NSW State of Origin great Brett Kenny believes Mitchell Pearce must go and Blues selectors should consider ushering in a new of era of young talent to end Queensland’s record reign.
Kenny admits with no obvious halfback successor he probably would have persisted with Pearce despite his poor record of three wins from 12 appearances as Blues No.7 – until his troubled Saturday night out.
The Sydney Roosters on Tuesday fined Pearce $20,000 and stood the 25-year-old down from this weekend’s NRL club game against North Queesland after he was ejected from two Sydney establishments and arrested for failing to leave a licensed premises.
The Blues’ incumbent playmaker will almost certainly retain his Origin position when NSW coach Laurie Daley names his squad on Tuesday for the series opener in Brisbane on May 28.
“But with everything that’s happened, me personally, I’d be saying; ‘No, I won’t play him. I’ll put someone else in’,” Kenny told AAP on Wednesday.
“Out of all the available halfbacks for Origin for NSW, he’s probably been playing the best, but I wouldn’t pick him anyway because of what happened on the weekend.”
With Pearce unable to help deliver NSW a series victory despite three full campaigns and the final two games in 2010, Kenny thinks his brush with the law provides Blues selectors Bob Fulton and coach Daley with an opportunity to move on.
“It would probably be easier to lose another series with a different halfback because at least you could say: ‘Oh well, he’s a new kid on the block, he struggled a bit but give him time’,” Kenny said.
“When you’ve got someone who has played the last three seasons in Origin and we still haven’t won … the reason we lost wasn’t just Mitchell Pearce alone, but I really don’t know that he’s been able to step up to the mark at that level.
“I even said last year that he won’t play this year because he’s not up to it.”
Kenny would lean towards picking Adam Reynolds as NSW’s new No.7 in an all-South Sydney halves pairing with five-eighth John Sutton.
But he’d also consider Newcastle’s Jarrod Mullen or Penrith playmaker Peter Wallace – who made five halfback appearances for NSW in 2008-09 – as a “possible bolter”.
“I wouldn’t have Mitchell Pearce anyway because of what happened,” Kenny said.
“Maybe it is an opportunity. We need to start to have a look and do something else because, let’s face it, we haven’t won it for, what, nine years? This will be the ninth.
“We haven’t made a lot of changes. We’ve made some but not a lot so maybe put some new kids in there, some young blokes, a bit of new blood.
“They’ll play with plenty of enthusiasm and something might happened.”