Improved: NSW coach Laurie Daley said Mitchell Pearce  is the right man for the Blues No.7 jersey.

Improved: NSW coach Laurie Daley said Mitchell Pearce is the right man for the Blues No.7 jersey. Photo: Getty Images

NSW coach Laurie Daley has hailed Mitchell Pearce as a vastly improved footballer than the one who participated in last year's State of Origin series.

Pearce has had a strong start to the year, backing up the form which resulted in him steering the Sydney Roosters to a grand final win over Manly. His performances silenced the critics who have pointed to his inability to get NSW over the line during his interstate appearances.

Daley, speaking at function announcing the NSWRL's initiative to bring deciders to Allianz Stadium on a gala grand final day for the VB NSW Cup and other senior open-age competitions, said Pearce's retention in the Blues side was all but assured.

"He's a better footballer than he was this time last year," Daley said.

"The experience of winning a grand final, winning tight games for the club - I think he's just happy with the way he's performing. He hasn't placed any outside pressure on himself, internally he knows what he can do and what he wants to do.

"He's showing that on the field, he's been really good actually. Tremendous."

Asked if he will be retained as the Blues No.7, Daley said: "I couldn't see anyone at the moment playing any better than him. I couldn't see any reason why he wouldn't be there."

Another talking point was Will Hopoate, who has made his NRL return for Parramatta after completing a two-year Mormon mission. While some have suggested Hopoate should be fast tracked to Origin, Daley was taking a cautious approach.

"With Hoppa, I haven't even thought about him, as I haven't with a number of players," Daley said.

"I'll wait until a few weeks time and really get into it. I've been following him, he's going steady, but in terms of Origin we'll see where he's at in a few weeks time rather than making any statements about that yet."

One of Daley's biggest selection dilemmas will be the fullback spot. Injury has prevented Josh Dugan from playing this year, Brett Stewart also remains sidelined while Jarryd Hayne has played on the wing in recent series. And while James Tedesco has started the year strongly for the Tigers, he is a prospect for future series rather than this one.

"The way Brett Stewart started the season, those first 40 minutes showed what he's still capable of," Daley said.

"Duges, we haven't seen this year but from all reports he's as good as he's ever been shape-wise.

"Hayne is playing like Jarryd [can] and he's got the option of playing in the centres or at fullback. It depends on the make up of the team and what way we decide to go."