Been saying that for years. Totally agree. I think he would have been excellent in this role. Might be too late for it now, but he 100% can not be the starting halfback. I would nearly even pick him as the starting hooker to offer the side a kicking game/bit of attack out of dummy half.
There is no doubt that Pearce has been a scape goat to some extent, and there is also no doubt that at origin time he was by far the in form halfback and the only realistic option to be picked. Having said that, you just can't pick him at 7 again given what happened in game 2 & 3 (and to some extent given that NSW only really pulled away in game 1 after he went off HIA) and the alternative that will be available. Barring injury, Cleary is the logical next halfback, and while he'll still only be very young at 20, he'll have played basically 50 games by then, which players usually don't achieve until they're 22 or 23, so I don't think you can use the too young argument. He also plays as if he's a lot older than he is. By that, I mean that if he never improves any more than what he is now, he'll still be a very good halfback for the next decade, and isn't like say Mullen or Pearce, who were picked on potential but not really origin standard when they were picked before their time.
By the same token, I don't think there is any NSW hooker who is an 80 minute hooker and has an attacking game to go with it. Peats, Korisau can be attacking players, but not if they play 80. While they can handle 80 defensively, have them play 50-60, and they'll bring a better running game to the table, then have a 20-30 minute hooker who can really apply the pressure when they're on. Pearce could most certainly do that role running occassionally from dummy half, and not being the chief playmaker calling the shots. If Cleary is injured Adam Reynolds can fill that role.
NSW try to copy what we've done with Smith, and that is just a losing cause. Farah is the easily the second best hooker of the last decade IMO, and when he was young enough to try and play like Smith NSW had a shit team, and when they finally had a good team he was no longer young enough to play that role and was instead a defensive 80 minute player like Peats was this year. Gee I even hope we don't try to emulate Smith when he retires. If he decided to hang up the boots tomorrow, then I'd hope we'd pick a Friend/McCullough type starter, with a Glanville/Segeyaro type hooker on the bench.