On Wednesday, Game III of an epic State of Origin series will see two established NRL players seek redemption on the biggest stage.
Corey Norman and Mitch Pearce have both weathered a fair share of controversy and their chequered pathway into the elite arena is indicative of how high level scrutiny can affect young men for both good and ill.
Corey Norman started his first grade playing days as a 19 year old with the Brisbane Broncos in 2010 and his exciting talent was immediately apparent with a Man of the Match performance alongside NRL legend Darren Lockyer.
As a young man the immediate attention, coupled with the need to develop the life skills required by professional sportspeople, created distraction that manifested in poor performances and off-field looseness.
Despite being inconsistent Norman continued to show that he had the skill set to contribute to good team performances and also win games through his unique talent.
His move to Parramatta in 2014 allowed him to take on a dominant role. He was good and if it was not for the presence of Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, he would have been a shoe in for a Queensland jumper.
During the 2016 season poor personal decisions made away off field caught up with him. He was caught with recreational drugs, filming explicit behaviour and consorting with criminals.
Norman copped a highly publicised eight-week suspension. There was a lot of unwanted attention, but his decision to take responsibility for his behaviour set the scene for a better future.
His move to St George has seen him develop a new maturity, shown by a clean sheet in his off-field conduct.
Norman has offered support to young people facing adversity and has taken a role in the indigenous community as a young leader.
This change in approach has led directly to outstanding form during the 2019 season and now sees him finally nab a place in the Maroons team.
Be assured if Queensland Kevin Walters had any doubts about Corey’s character, he would not be in the 17.
With the short preparation time the coach has to prepare a team on the backfoot, a player like Norman can provide some much needed X-factor. Expect him to galvanise the team and bring his best.
Mitchell Pearce’s return to the NSW Blues is a much different story with the same underlying theme. Mitch made an early entry into Origin as a 19-year-old prodigy of a famous father.
During Pearce’s 18 Origin games from 2008-2017 he was not part of a winning series.
While the media has focused on the individual, there are some important factors that should not be overlooked. For a start, the Queensland team that was beating NSW during this era could was stacked full of talent and had a cohesion rarely seen in representative football.
As is very often the case when a team forward pack is being dominated it near impossible for a half-back to play well. On field Pearce became a scapegoat, off field was another story as alcohol abuse took its toll. .
He paid a heavy price for the two incidents that were caught on film, but as a experienced NRL player there is no doubt that Pearce knew better and he should not have put himself in those situations.
The incident for which he was banned for eight weeks in 2016 seemed to have signalled the end of him returning to representative football, but he has made the most of his new opportunities.
Again, it was a change of team and the chance to be in a new environment where past expectations were no longer something he had to deal that made the difference. Pearce made a clear decision to be more mature and become a leader.
This was evident after the Newcastle Knights had a slow start to the season and were 1-5. In round seven Pearce literally won the game single handed against the Eels and won Man Of The Match in the next four games. His club went on a six game winning streak.
The maturity and humility Pearce showed during that streak was a clear indicator of how he had grown as a human and the care he had for his teammates.
He now gets to bring this experience to the NSW Team and will be well received by those who get to play alongside him in Sydney’s Game III next week.
The lesson that flows from the story of these two players, through trials and tribulation?
“Become a better person and you become a better player”.