The man who helped torment Mitchell Pearce for the best part of a decade has provided a ringing endorsement before his NSW return, predicting the halfback will shine in the State of Origin decider.
Former Queensland captain Cameron Smith played in all seven series in which Pearce was on the losing side, contributing to the greatest dynasty in Origin history as the Blues No.7 unfairly shouldered much of the blame for NSW's failing.
Judgment day: Mitchell Pearce is preparing for the defining game of his career.Credit:AAP
The return of Pearce after regular halfback Nathan Cleary was ruled out with an ankle problem has hogged headlines in the lead-up to what has been billed as "the biggest game in Origin history".
He will reunite in the halves with former Roosters teammate James Maloney, himself only drafted into the squad for game two when Pearce was unavailable through injury. The pair won an NRL premiership together in 2013.
Asked about the dynamic between the pair, former NSW hooker Michael Ennis said: "From my own assumptions looking at it, Jimmy has been pretty public and nothing will change. I think Jimmy will still call the field positions and call the shots.
"Mitchell will be able to execute that and play on the ball like he does at Newcastle. As much as there's a lot of talk about how it will work, I think for Jimmy – and playing with him at Cronulla – he actually liked Townsend playing on the ball and him floating around and picking his moments.
He will be out for some redemption for sure
"They're going in with a clear mind knowing they're playing really well. You can see the way Brad coaches is he allows them to play the way they do for their clubs. They're not under pressure to try to change."
Ennis played six of his eight Origin games with Pearce wearing the No.7 and was a keen observer at NSW training during the week.
Pearce has been upbeat and as relaxed as ever in camp throughout the week, fuelling confidence in coach Brad Fittler and the Blues brains trust.
"I think [he's better placed than ever to handle it]," Ennis said. "I can only speak from experience and at the back end of your career you're a lot more comfortable in the player you are, a lot more mature as a person and that translates onto the field. He looks in a really good spot.
"He looks really comfortable in the player he is and really comfortable in the person he is. His form has been incredible with Newcastle. I'd love nothing more than to see him have a blinder on Wednesday night and seal the series for NSW."
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