After naming Bulldogs pair Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds as his new halves pairing for the Origin opener in Brisbane on Wednesday week, Daley admitted he had no plans to drop Pearce until the Roosters number 7 went on a bender earlier this month, while he added that five-eighth James Maloney was simply collateral damage.
Desperate to build a new booze-free culture with the Blues, the NSW boss felt he had no option but to axe Pearce after he was ejected from a nightclub and arrested for failing to leave a licensed area.
“It’s always a tough decision to change halves but in the best interest of the team I thought it was necessary,” Daley said after the NSW team was announced on Tuesday.
“After speaking to him (Pearce) I knew the right decision was to leave him out for game one.
“It’s not a phone call you want to make or a decision you take lightly but he understood the reasons why.
“He’s a wonderful man but he’s made an error and I know he’ll bounce back.”
Asked what upset him most about Pearce’s behaviour, Daley responded: “We had a camp in January where we discussed a lot of things and I think everyone was quite clear on what the requirements were.”
Pressed on whether he planned to leave Pearce out of his side before the incident, Daley replied bluntly: “No”.
With Pearce gone, Daley felt he has no option but to leave Maloney out of the team as well, preferring to stick with a tried and true club combination in Hodkinson and Reynolds.
“They’re playing in the team that’s leading the competition, they’re in career-best form and I thought it was important we had that combination there,” Daley explained.
Reynolds has enjoyed a brief taste of Origin football off the bench but Hodkinson will be on debut.
Daley admits he is rolling the dice but it’s a risk worth taking.
“It’s always a calculated gamble (but) I don’t think you ever throw someone in without thinking through the whole puzzle,” he said.
“While we all want short-term success, I think part of my job is to create a team that is not only going to sustain pressure for short-term but will build success for a long period.”
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