After eight series without success and being told his only chance of touching the State of Origin shield is getting a picture with the Wally Lewis statue, Mitchell Pearce looks set to get his chance at redemption.
NSW coach Brad Fittler is expected to drop Cody Walker for next Sunday's game two in Perth and replace him with the often-maligned Newcastle playmaker as part of a halves reshuffle.
Under the plan, Pearce will line up at halfback and Penrith No.7 Nathan Cleary will shift to five-eighth in what shapes as the biggest gamble of Fittler's tenure as Blues coach.
After getting his Origin debut as an 18-year-old in 2008, Pearce has so far been unable to win any of the seven series he has appeared in.
He was dropped in 2014 and 2018 when the Blues scored drought-breaking wins but Fittler now looks set to put the team's fate in his hands.
In 2015, after the Blues were flogged 52-6 in the decider in Brisbane, Johnathan Thurston famously sledged Pearce, saying that he: "should probably get a photo with Wally's statue (outside Suncorp Stadium) because that's the closest he was going to get to holding the shield".
While he has been the punching bag for the Blues' woes during a 14-year period in which the Maroons have dominated, Pearce is undeterred by the criticism and the thought of returning to the Origin arena.
"There are always challenges those games," Pearce said.
"You prepare every game to the best of your ability to play your best footy and those games have heightened pressure with so much at stake."
Pearce said he will consider turning off social media, adding: "If you're reading that stuff you're silly anyway in my opinion. I don't read that sort of stuff.
"When you win you're going to get pats on the back and when you lose you're going to get criticised and that's just the way it is."
Pearce looks set to be selected despite having a quiet game in the Knights' loss to Melbourne on Saturday in which he ran for just 23 metres, made nine tackles and missed four.
The Blues' plan to deploy Pearce and Cleary in tandem has been met with criticism given both are halfbacks and they will have just three training runs together during an abbreviated build-up.
"If that's the way they're going to go then you make it work," Pearce said.
"It will be named tomorrow and it's a week preparation. You make things work in those teams. That's what your job is otherwise there's a lot of pressure when you lose."
Australian Associated Press