The Rovere Report

PEARCE OFF THE PACE First it was Gary "The Whiz" Freeman, now it's veteran rugby league commentator Greg Prichard, calling for Mitchell Pearce to be selected for New South Wales. I mean, what's with these guys? I made allowances for the Freeman "push" given he works with Pearce's father Wayne at Fox Sports, and that obviously clouded his judgement but for the life of me I've no idea what has prompted Prichard to call for the inclusion of the Rooster half.

Pearce is that far down the pecking order in terms of candidates for the Blues' number seven it's not even funny. In front of him is the likes of Peter Wallace, Matt Orford, Jarrod Mullen and Brett Kimmorley. Even club five-eighths Trent Barrett, Jamie Soward and Terry Campese were being touted as better options at the base of the scrum.

Next year he will not only face a further challenge in the shape of Todd Carney for Origin selection, but the former Canberra Raider bad boy has his eyes firmly fixed on the halfback's position at the Roosters. Sure, Carney can play at six but his preference has always been the number seven. It is a position where he has created the most havoc for opposition defences.

The trouble for Mitchell Pearce is he lacks that necessary ingredient that separates a great player from a solid performer - pace. The way the modern game is played, speed of foot and speed of reflexes is crucial not only for backs but for forwards as well. You need it for defence and you of course, it is a pre-requisite for attack.

Pearce is more in the mould of a Craig Coleman or a Kevin Hastings rather than a Stevie Mortimer or an Alfie Langer. Yes, Peter Sterling and Andrew Johns weren't overly blessed with pace but they more than made it up with great guile, clever deception and tremendous vision.


Dead-set, news that Jamie Lyon may turn out for his club after withdrawing from Origin through injury should be the straw that shatters the spine of the powers-that-be calling the shots at NSW headquarters. How on earth the Manly centre was even considered for a Blues' jumper is beyond me?

It is an indictment on the entire selection panel and the coaching staff and should be the catalyst for their sacking en masse win, lose or draw at Suncorp next Wednesday. If ever an organisation needed regime change it's the NSW Rugby League.

Any wonder when the game's there for the winning or there for the saving, nine times out of ten it will be the Maroons who will emerge in triumph. Game II was a classic example. Here you had a badly depleted Queensland side out on it's feet yet New South Wales was clueless in it's failed attempt to deliver the knockout blow.

The difference between the two states isn't passion, isn't aggression, it's D-E-S-I-R-E. It's part of their DNA. All that young footballers in Queensland want to do growing up, is to earn the right to defend their state's honour against the despised enemy - New South Wales. They covet the role. They cherish the opportunity to wear the famous Maroon jumper and carry on the tradition of rising above the odds to beat a state that has so many more players at their disposal.

Conversely, it seems for a New South Welshmen to represent his state, it's a duty not an honour. They do it because they have to, not because they want to.

You only had to hear the comments of Jamie Lyon prior to Game I when asked how he was feeling about the game. His dispassionate response was more akin to that of a politician discussing the canteen menu at Parliament House during Question Time.


Under siege South Sydney coach Jason Taylor needs a miracle. Thus far he has failed as a first grade coach and unless there is a massive - and we're talking "gi-normous" - turnaround in his club's fortunes his chances of retaining the head coach's position are about as good as Brad Fittler's at the Roosters. Both are short odds not to be in the current roles for the 2010 season.

Taylor has a terrific roster at his disposal, yet the strategy he has employed this season has been puzzling at best and inept at worst. Only this week he punts a player who scored a hat-trick in Luke Capewell, yet persists with a flawed halves' combination and a captain in Roy Asotasi whose form has deteriorated to the point he must be on the verge of being dropped form the top grade. And wouldn't that be an almighty fall from grace.

Twelve months ago Asotasi was widely regarded as the premier prop in the game. Nowadays, based on form he would not make the New Zealand squad for the Four-Nations tournament. In front of him and by a long, long way are Fuifui Moimoi, Adam Blair, Sam Rapira, Jeff Lima and Mark Taufua.

The stripping of the captaincy from Asotasi needs to be the first in a host of changes that need to be actioned at Souths immediately if the club wants to even challenge for a spot in the Top Eight. There are ready-made replacements in Craig Wing and Michael Crocker - either would be well-suited to the role. Both are current Origin stars respected by their peers.

Asotasi can play 80 minutes yet spends more time on the sidelines on the exercise bike. Another reason why he simply should not be captain. How can your leader set a platform form the bench? There is simply no logic to Taylor's methods.

Taylor's handling of the interchange has been poor and his team selections bewildering to say the least. I mean what the hell was Ben Lowe being selected in the centres for? That worked - not.

I'm sure both Souths and Rooster officials are circling the very impressive Stephen Kearney to step into the breech should a vacancy be created by the departure of either Taylor or Fittler.


Respected journalist and novelist Peter Fitz-Simons is a real servant to the game of rugby union. He is a passionate defender of the fifteen-man game who whenever he gets the chance loves "giving it" to rugby league. He pretty much hates the fact league players have infiltrated the sport that was once the exclusive domain of the Benz-driving, turtle-neck jumper wearing, leather-patch brigade.

Fitz-Simons has been at odds with the Australian Rugby Union's policy of forking out mega-dollars to sign the likes of Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri, Mat Rogers, Berrick Barnes, Ryan Cross and Timana Tahu at the expense of developing their own players. And he has a point. The millions spent on luring league players to switch codes could have been used to help foster club rugby which is nothing more than a "mickey mouse" competition. The standard is mediocre at best and is played before paltry crowds at below-par venues.

Union is all about the international game. No one seems to give a continental about the game at grassroots level, which is a flawed system because ultimately if you do not cultivate the next crop eventually you will wither and die on the vine.

Fitz-Simons no doubt, would be feeling the shock sacking this week of Tuqiri validates his anti-league stance. But what the balding, heavily furrowed Fitz-Simons must accept is a great rugby league player will always be superior in skill and talent to his union counterpart.

Take Jonathan Thurston for example. He would easily be the best player in the world in either code. If Matt Giteau is worth a million a season than Thurston is worth at least double that. And the reason being unlike Giteau, Thurston doesn't go missing in action for large chunks of the game. Giteau has improved his involvement in games, but there was a time no so long ago that he was hardly sighted for the entire 80 minutes.

We have conflicting opinions on the virtues of both codes, but I respect the opinion of someone like Fitz-Simons who has achieved a great deal and undoubtedly has an engaging personality, otherwise how else could he have won the affections of such a beautiful lady in his wife Lisa Wilkinson?