Mitchell Pearce has put his hand up to replace Nathan Cleary for the State of Origin decider after the NSW playmaker was ruled out for up to a month.
Cleary is all but out for the July 10 clash at ANZ Stadium after he was on Tuesday diagnosed with a lateral ankle injury.
Sidelined: Nathan Cleary watches from the Blues bench after being forced off the field.Credit:NRL Photos
While he avoided surgery, he is long odds to take his place for game three with coach Brad Fittler set to name his side after this weekend's round of the NRL.
Wade Graham appears the likely candidate to partner James Maloney in the NSW halves after the Cronulla back-rower's superb performance filling in for Cleary in the second half of NSW's 38-6 win in Perth.
Maloney has backed a recall for former teammate Pearce, who was tipped to be brought in for game two before he was ruled out with groin and hip injuries.
Pearce on Tuesday disputed rumours that he had turned down the Blues jersey, after also being unavailable for game one because of injury.
"I put my hand up for the last game too – all this conjecture about that – obviously I'd love to play," Pearce said.
"They obviously just had a massive win and I'm not too sure which way they'd be looking. But, yes, of course."
Cleary suffered the injury in the first half of the Blues' resounding game-two win over Queensland on Sunday but failed to take the field in the final 40 minutes.
The Panthers said the injury was high grade and he is expected to miss up to four weeks.
Withdrawal explained: Mitchell Pearce says he wouldn’t have been able to train until later in the week before Origin II.Credit:NRL Photos
Pearce will have a final chance to push for NSW's No.7 jersey on Saturday during Newcastle's match with Brisbane at McDonald Jones Stadium.
"The injury feels good. It was a decent cork, I had a slight hip strain that was bugging me for a few weeks," he said.
"The reason I wasn't able to participate in [Origin II], which was hard to watch, I wouldn't have been able to train until later in the week and I explained that to the people that mattered.
"I had a light run on Saturday. The freshen-up has been good for the whole group and for myself personally."
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