live Infotainment Factory: 'One of the saddest things I did'

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Monday, 8 July 2019

'One of the saddest things I did'


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CATCH THE FULL SEGMENT ON 100% FOOTY AT 10:20PM ON CHANNEL 9

Blues coach Brad Fittler has revealed he fought back tears when he realised Nathan Cleary wouldn’t be fit to play the State of Origin decider.

But every cloud has a silver lining.

In what may stand as the bittersweet crossroads of the 2019 series, Fittler said the “saddest” moment in his short coaching career quickly became one of the most uplifting when he was afforded the opportunity to welcome Mitchell Pearce back into the NSW squad.

Holding the unwanted record of never having won an Origin series in seven attempts, the 30-year-old unwittingly became the punching bag for NSW’s representative frustrations during Queensland’s dominant eight-year dynasty.

Nathan Cleary, Brad Fittler and Mitchell Pearce

His reintroduction on rugby league’s main stage this week has placed him firmly under the microscope as fans’ trepidation over his undesirable record resurfaced.

But Fittler assured the way Pearce heeded his very own call to action was heart-warming enough to dispel even the most stubborn of punters’ anxieties.

“When Nathan and I had the discussion about him not being able to play next Wednesday, I had my sunglasses on thank God, because it’s one of the saddest things I did,” Fittler told Nine’s 100% Footy.

“He’s such a whole-hearted bloke, Nathan.

Nathan Cleary

“But after that I had the pleasure of ringing Mitchell and getting his reaction.

“I spoke to him during the first two games as well just to see where he was at ... but to make that phone call and for him to react the way he did and just say, ‘I’m ready, what do you need me to do’ was just a really good moment in my short coaching career.

“Since he’s been here, I think he’s been really comfortable in the footy team.

“He’s very confident with the team and he shows that on the field ... and that’s really important to us.”

Mitchell Pearce

Quizzed on his duties when he reunites with former Roosters teammate James Maloney, Fittler revealed Pearce was happy to hand the reins over to 2018 Origin winner and instead lead by example on the night.

“He’s taken a bit of a back seat (to Maloney), the fact that they’ve played together and won a grand final together says a lot,” Fittler said.

“Having those moments together in big games and big circumstances, that’s come in handy no doubt.

“He understands it’s not necessarily going to be him getting the team around the park, it’s going to be him being the competitive bloke he is that’s just going to help us.”

Johns and Pearce in Blues camp

It’s that renewed humility that has seen Pearce rediscover his best form at Newcastle and earn him his spot back in the Blues.

The stigma may still be there, however.

Of all the playmakers to don a sky blue jersey in Origin history, arguably none have been more maligned than Pearce.

However NRL guru Phil Gould asserts the halfback should be applauded for shouldering responsibility when NSW “had no one else” as he kits up for his 19th Origin appearance.

Mitchell Pearce trains with NSW

“The one point I want to make about Mitchell Pearce is this will be his 19th origin, that’s a pretty special performance,” He told Nine’s 100% Footy.

“And all those Origins where he was criticised because and lost and he didn’t get it done, we didn’t have anyone else, he was the best we had.

“This is the 19th time he’s been attested the best halfback in NSW and he is. He’s our hope and he’s the one who’s got to get it done this time.

“But I think just talking to him today he seemed to be in a different frame of mind, it’s a different team and I just got a feeling today there is a calmness about him maybe he hasn’t had prior in his career.

Gould defends Pearce's Origin career

“I said to him, ‘You debuted in 2008 and as a 19 year old, I said ‘did you think you were ready?’ And he said no. He said I tried, I always tried hard, I always gave a 100 per cent but I wasn’t ready and it gave me self doubts along the day.”

The Blues and Maroons do battle on Wednesday 7pm at ANZ Stadium.

CATCH THE FULL SEGMENT ON 100% FOOTY AT 10:20PM ON CHANNEL 9

Blues coach Brad Fittler has revealed he fought back tears when he realised Nathan Cleary wouldn’t be fit to play the State of Origin decider.

But every cloud has a silver lining.

In what may stand as the bittersweet crossroads of the 2019 series, Fittler said the “saddest” moment in his short coaching career quickly became one of the most uplifting when he was afforded the opportunity to welcome Mitchell Pearce back into the NSW squad.

Holding the unwanted record of never having won an Origin series in seven attempts, the 30-year-old unwittingly became the punching bag for NSW’s representative frustrations during Queensland’s dominant eight-year dynasty.

Nathan Cleary, Brad Fittler and Mitchell Pearce

His reintroduction on rugby league’s main stage this week has placed him firmly under the microscope as fans’ trepidation over his undesirable record resurfaced.

But Fittler assured the way Pearce heeded his very own call to action was heart-warming enough to dispel even the most stubborn of punters’ anxieties.

“When Nathan and I had the discussion about him not being able to play next Wednesday, I had my sunglasses on thank God, because it’s one of the saddest things I did,” Fittler told Nine’s 100% Footy.

“He’s such a whole-hearted bloke, Nathan.

Nathan Cleary

“But after that I had the pleasure of ringing Mitchell and getting his reaction.

“I spoke to him during the first two games as well just to see where he was at ... but to make that phone call and for him to react the way he did and just say, ‘I’m ready, what do you need me to do’ was just a really good moment in my short coaching career.

“Since he’s been here, I think he’s been really comfortable in the footy team.

“He’s very confident with the team and he shows that on the field ... and that’s really important to us.”

Mitchell Pearce

Quizzed on his duties when he reunites with former Roosters teammate James Maloney, Fittler revealed Pearce was happy to hand the reins over to 2018 Origin winner and instead lead by example on the night.

“He’s taken a bit of a back seat (to Maloney), the fact that they’ve played together and won a grand final together says a lot,” Fittler said.

“Having those moments together in big games and big circumstances, that’s come in handy no doubt.

“He understands it’s not necessarily going to be him getting the team around the park, it’s going to be him being the competitive bloke he is that’s just going to help us.”

Johns and Pearce in Blues camp

It’s that renewed humility that has seen Pearce rediscover his best form at Newcastle and earn him his spot back in the Blues.

The stigma may still be there, however.

Of all the playmakers to don a sky blue jersey in Origin history, arguably none have been more maligned than Pearce.

However NRL guru Phil Gould asserts the halfback should be applauded for shouldering responsibility when NSW “had no one else” as he kits up for his 19th Origin appearance.

Mitchell Pearce trains with NSW

“The one point I want to make about Mitchell Pearce is this will be his 19th origin, that’s a pretty special performance,” He told Nine’s 100% Footy.

“And all those Origins where he was criticised because and lost and he didn’t get it done, we didn’t have anyone else, he was the best we had.

“This is the 19th time he’s been attested the best halfback in NSW and he is. He’s our hope and he’s the one who’s got to get it done this time.

“But I think just talking to him today he seemed to be in a different frame of mind, it’s a different team and I just got a feeling today there is a calmness about him maybe he hasn’t had prior in his career.

Gould defends Pearce's Origin career

“I said to him, ‘You debuted in 2008 and as a 19 year old, I said ‘did you think you were ready?’ And he said no. He said I tried, I always tried hard, I always gave a 100 per cent but I wasn’t ready and it gave me self doubts along the day.”

The Blues and Maroons do battle on Wednesday 7pm at ANZ Stadium.

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