Origin bombshell! Cleary out, Pearce in
Nathan Cleary will not play in Origin III after succumbing to an ankle injury and the Blues will return to Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce as his replacement.
Pearce is on his way to Sydney to join the Blues after Cleary's bold bid to be fit failed.
Cleary worked extensively to recover from a badly bruised ankle, suffered in the first half of the Blues' 38-6 game two victory over Queensland in Perth a fortnight ago.
The NSW medical staff had no option but to call in Pearce after it became apparent Cleary would not be ready in time.
It is a remarkable return to the State of Origin arena for Pearce, a much-maligned player at this level.
"Pearce will be in camp tonight," NSW coach Brad Fittler said.
"Nathan Cleary is out."
Cleary tested his ankle for the first time on Wednesday during a secret running session at Moore Park.
Under the watch of NSW head trainer Hayden Knowles and team physiotherapist Liz Steet, Cleary ran on an anti-gravity treadmill at the Roosters headquarters just before midday.
Referred to as an Alter-G, the treadmill allows athletes to move unrestricted and pain-free.
Back at the Blues team hotel in Bondi, the NSW coaching staff anxiously waited to hear how Cleary had pulled through his fitness test.
Pearce, 30, played the last of his 18 games for NSW in the 2017 series, which the Blues lost 2-1 to Queensland.
The Newcastle Knights star had been in the frame for the opening two games of the series, but withdrew both times because of injury.
He will reunite with former Sydney Roosters and NSW teammate James Maloney in the Blues halves.