Origin decider a game of two halves
THEY say rugby league is a game of two halves and that's never been more true than in Sydney on Wednesday night.
The iconic 40-year history of State of Origin football has thrown up some celebrated storylines, but not one quite like the tale of rival halfbacks Mitchell Pearce and Daly Cherry-Evans in a game which means everything for both of them.
Career-defining? For Pearce, absolutely. Glory or bust with nothing in between.
For Cherry-Evans? He insists this match will not define him but he is only half right.
If Queensland wins it will.
Such a result will complete the final epic and unexpected chapter in his transition to respected leader, from the once spurned solitary man of Queensland football who senior players did not enjoy playing with and who was jeered on to Suncorp Stadium for turning back on a deal to join the Gold Coast Titans.
If he can rise from the rabble of Perth and win this one as captain, after all of the turbulence he suffered as a polarising Michael Clarke-style character earlier in his career, bygones will be bygones and credit will be given where credit is due.
Cherry-Evans will always have his knockers but even if he loses, he will still be on the road to public redemption and will get another chance to lead the Maroons next year.
So there is a soft landing of sorts and a future trending strongly north.
But for Pearce there is no middle ground.
This is it. The penthouse or the outhouse. The clouds or the concrete. Call it unfair because it is, but it is also the truth.
In victory or defeat, this will almost certainly be his Origin swan song and the impact will be as dramatic as the last line in a whodunnit murder mystery.
He has played seven third games in a series and lost the lost, 18 Origin games without winning a series.
Only horses who chased Winx home start after start could appreciate the depth of his exasperation.
In 2015 Johnathan Thurston sledged him in the decider by saying "you really should get your photo taken outside the ground with the Wally Lewis statue, because that is the closest you will come to the trophy''.
And, just to cement his reputation as the man who missed the boat, he missed out on the Roosters premiership win last year after being freakishly squeezed out of the club by Cooper Cronk - though he did win an earlier title with the club.
If Pearce wins he becomes the poster boy for never giving up, a monument to relentless effort in the face of adversity.
In that case, all of his near misses actually morph into badges of honour, for they enhance the impact of his final act of glory.
But if he loses … where was that statue again?