Newcastle coach Nathan Brown says if the Blues' brains trust are not willing to pick Mitchell Pearce as a dominant half, "they may as well let him sit in the loungeroom".
Speaking after the Knights extended their winning run to six games with a 20-12 dusting of the Rabbitohs, Brown urged the Blues' coaching staff to use Pearce right, as a playmaker who can control across the park, or not at all.
Pearce has played a major part in Newcastle's run of form, picking up five man-of-the-match awards which he wasn't able to turn into six this week, even though he was strong again in a scrappy, sodden contest at ANZ Stadium.
He produced another eye-catching performance just 48 hours after NSW halves Nathan Cleary and Cody Walker came into the firing line for the Blues' 18-14 game-one loss in Brisbane.
Pearce knows what it's like to be an Origin public punching bag, having been in that position for much of Queensland's dominant years, and went on the record with "my support behind those guys" in between the Blues' loss on Wednesday and steering the Knights to another win on Friday.
Brown, too, refused to draw and quarter the latest NSW pair, and cautioned that if Brad Fittler was to recall Pearce for his Origin II plans, it must be as the dominant playmaker.
Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Knights
"I look at Mitch as a player who has to do play on play," Brown said.
"If the style of footy is 'go and stand on one side of the field and not double up on plays', they may as well let Pearcey sit in the loungeroom.
"If they want a player that's going to dominate the ball and then feed Cody Walker, I'd say Pearcey is your man.
"In my opinion they've got two five-eighths. I think young Nathan [Cleary] at this stage of his career is more like a five-eighth than a halfback. That's just my opinion and I might be wrong, two five-eighths can work together if that's the style you want.
"He's a young player in a high pressure situation who holds himself so well, they may be happy with their combination. But if they want a dominant half I would suggest that Pearcey would be the person you want, but only if you're going to let him be a dominant half."
While Pearce steered the Knights to a gritty win in the absence of Kalyn Ponga (rested) and David Klemmer (broken wrist), Brown reserved special praise for makeshift hooker Connor Watson.
Brown: Pick Pearce for Blues if you want a dominant half
The Newcastle utility scored a critical try after halftime against the Rabbitohs in his best performance of 2019, having struggled for consistency in previous roles at fullback, five-eighth and off the bench.
"He was terrific tonight, we love what Connor brings," Brown said.
"Every position he plays, his style of play is as a great competitor.
"Is everything perfect? No it's not always perfect but you know he's going to go out there, regardless of who he plays, and give everything he's got and the boys love playing with him."