Blues Halves Combination not a Gamble: Daley
New South Wales Origin coach Laurie Daley has backed his new halves make-up of Trent Hodkinson and Mitchell Pearce to click quickly as the Blues look to win back-to-back Holden State of Origin series for the first time in over a decade.
Admitting the decision to have the two halfbacks in his team had been in the back of his mind "for a while", Daley said pairing the 26-year-olds together wasn't a gamble.
In what is somewhat of a redemption story for Roosters halfback Pearce – after being completely overlooked in 2014 after his unacceptable behaviour away from footy – Daley said it was just as good for the team not to have him there last year, as it is to have him return now.
"I'm excited for Mitch, I think he's earned it through his performances and that's what you want to see," Daley said after announcing his team on Monday.
"It's probably a great example for some of the other guys when they get a bit of disappointment, to go back and work hard on your game because the door is never shut.
"You can go back and look at what you do with your performances and what you do on and off the field and Mitch has come along in leaps and bounds in terms of what you see. I'm assuming once I do get the chance to work with him he'll be a lot more of a different player to what he was a couple of years ago."
Having led NSW in four losing Origin series between 2010 and 2013, Pearce was "proud and privileged" to make his return and was hopeful of removing any stigma from within the Blues' fan base that he had built up over the years.
"It feels good to be trusted again and to be brought back in to a winning side and I certainly won't let them down. It's a proud moment for me," Pearce said.
"It doesn't feel nice to be left out and not having any success previously isn't something I'm proud of. It's something I'm hopeful of changing because it'd be nice not to get booed that's for sure.
"I feel like I've developed as a player since the last time I played Origin. It's no secret I haven't had much success personally and as a team but I feel like I understand myself better as a player and a person."
Acknowledging he hasn't had much to do with either playing five-eighth or Hodkinson in the past, Pearce said he wasn't nervous about the challenges which lie ahead.
"I haven't played five-eighth in first-grade but there's not too much difference these days depending on what style you play. Loz has taken me through the structures he wants us to play and I feel really confident playing there," Pearce said.
"Most teams play pretty similar styles in the NRL and our style to how Queensland play probably won't be too different either so I'm very clear on my role."
With the two halves playing together for the first time, Daley again added that while Bulldogs halfback Hodkinson wasn't in the best of form, his calming influence over the team was too good to dismiss.
While his fellow Bulldogs halves partner Josh Reynolds wasn't so lucky, Hodkinson's composure is something that gave Daley confidence.
"The thing I like about Trent is he is nice and calm and I think in State of Origin when it can get a bit helter skelter you need someone who is able to stay calm, be composed, give direction and make sure he can keep other guys' minds on the job and that's what I learnt with Trent last year," Daley said.
"If you're looking for someone who can produce a miracle play in terms of chip and chasing or taking intercepts then we have the wrong person, but if you want someone in a crisis and to take control of a game then [Hodkinson's] your man. He's one I have a lot of faith in."
This article first appeared on NRL.com