If anyone knows how hot the State of Origin cauldron will be for Queensland rookie Cameron Munster next Wednesday night, it’s the most maligned halfback for NSW.
Munster is poised to become the first playmaker to debut in a State of Origin series decider since a 19-year-old Mitchell Pearce was thrust into that pressure-cooker environment in game three of the 2008 series.
Pearce ended up missing a tackle on Johnathan Thurston that resulted in the series-winning try for Billy Slater.
It was the start of a Blues career that has been forever under scrutiny as the Maroons extended their dominance in the interstate arena.
A decade on and Pearce concedes that, in hindsight, he wasn’t ready for his 2008 call-up.
“I was too young,” Pearce said.
“I remember, I was a bit different. I was 19 so I didn’t think too much at that stage. It’s probably less pressure back then because you haven’t been a part of a series and all the rest of it.”
However Pearce believes 22-year-old Munster will be far more comfortable, thanks to the close presence of influential Melbourne teammates.
The Storm’s star playmaking trio of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith will all be alongside the man asked to wear the jumper of injured champion Thurston.
It is arguably the most celebrated jumper in Origin, also following in the footsteps of Maroons legends Wally Lewis and Darren Lockyer.
“If we’re talking about Munster, he’s a great player and I think he’d be really comfortable around their spine that they’ve got there,” Pearce said.
“Obviously Johnathan Thurston’s one of the greatest of all time so he brings a whole other dimension to their team. I don’t think they’ll be changing too much.”
Pearce, who is the Blues’ second-most experienced Origin player with 17 games, again finds himself under pressure to deliver the Blues a series win in his seventh year in the arena.
However the 28-year-old insists he’s grown accustomed to the hot seat.
“I’m pretty relaxed right now. There’s always pressure. We’re here to prepare as a winning team and go out there and do our best to win the series for NSW,” he said.