“What it has shown is they’re all working together and at the top of their game. They all look strong in the mind, so I know they’ll all go back to their club and perform.
“They all had periods last year where they were extremely dominant. The first 10 weeks of next year will be so important.”
There was a sense of closure when Pearce returned for victory in game three, but Fittler said he remained firmly in the frame.
Moses has since gone on to represent the PM’s XIII again and starred for Australia during the World Cup 9s, while Brooks had a great season with the Wests Tigers and presents a left-foot option.
Cleary missed game three because of injury and is looking forward to not only trying to reclaim the Origin gig but lead Penrith for the first time without his experienced playmaking pal Maloney.
The 22-year-old will head to Brisbane on Monday with the rest of the Panthers as they embark on a three-day army boot camp on the outskirts of the Queensland capital.
Cleary underwent off-season surgery on the big toe which he injured at the same time as his ankle during Origin II.
“It was OK during games but really sore after games and during the week,” Cleary said. “The surgeon said I should get it done because it won’t heal itself.”
Cleary has completed everything at training except wrestling drills and full contact, something he will resume in the new year.
The race is wide open and whoever plays the best footy to start the year will get it.
He knows the Panthers need a fast start to help their premiership cause – and his Blues return.
“I was looking around camp on Friday and know there are some good halves getting around for NSW,” Cleary said.
“The race is wide open and whoever plays the best footy to start the year will get it.
“I’m focused on Penrith because we had a terrible start last season and were on the back foot the whole time.
“Last season was a massive learning experience for me in terms of leading the team. We went through some ups and downs. I’m looking forward to taking that next step again with my leadership and trying to get better.”
Jarome Luai, someone who is no stranger to playing alongside Cleary, is expected to get first crack at Maloney’s No. 6 jersey.
It was impossible to miss coach Ivan Cleary’s lengthy locks during the week, which could yet turn into a mullet should his youngest son, Jett, come home with at least four As on his report card this week.
“But my brother isn’t the smartest, so I’ll doubt dad will have to do it,” Cleary quipped.
Fittler will meet with Mitchell in his hometown of Taree later this week as part of a community visit. Several of Mitchell’s Roosters teammates will also make the trek north to help one of the regions hit hardest by the bushfires.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.