Mitchell Pearce has lifted the lid on the reasons he decided to push for a release from the Knights after the club finally agreed to his request yesterday.
Pearce, an often maligned star during his 15 years in the NRL, has taken up an offer with the Catalans Dragons, and is set to move to France to start a new phase of his career in the UK Super League in the coming weeks.
The 32-year-old admitted he had felt drained by the last 12 months, citing “personal things” that had complicated his life away from football as a driving factor in his decision to leave.
However, he had some parting advice for the Knights in an exclusive interview with Nine News’ Danny Weidler, urging them to pursue contracted Wests Tigers star Luke Brooks to replace him despite the fact that Newcastle’s on CEO Phil Gardner appeared to publicly kill off the prospect last week.
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“He’d be great for the club,” Pearce said when asked specifically about Brooks.
“I think Brooksy’s a really good player, he’s been a really good first grader for a long time, so I think if the club’s able to get Brooksy up there, especially with the forward pack that we’ve got, the great young players up there, I think it’d be a great move for Brooksy.”
Pearce’s exit from the Knights leaves coach Adam O’Brien with the massive off-season assignment of settling on a halves combination that can improve his side in 2022 after a seventh-place finish and first week finals elimination this year.
O’Brien, ably assisted by legendary halfback Andrew Johns, who has taken up a new coaching role with the club, has plenty of options already contracted at the Knights but none that scream ‘premiership potential’, which is why speculation is likely to continue to link them with halfbacks from other clubs.
At the moment Jake Clifford looks a certainty to start the 2022 season with the No.7 on his back, leaving new recruit Adam Clune, Phoenix Crossland, Kurt Mann and young gun Simi Sasagi in a battle for the No.6 jersey.
Yet the speculation surrounding a play for Brooks, who is contracted with the Wests Tigers for the next two seasons on a deal understood to be worth about $850,000-a-season won’t die, and it will only gather renewed momentum thanks to Pearce’s endorsement.
For his part, the 32-year-old halfback who won a premiership with the Roosters in 2013 and finally ticked the ‘Origin series winner’ box after being recalled to the NSW side for the deciding third game in 2019, has left the door open for a return to the NRL after his sojourn to France, initially on a two-year-deal.
“You never say never do ya? Who knows down the track, so I’ll still leave that door open,” Pearce said when the prospect of having played his last NRL game was raised.
In the meantime he’s looking forward to a fresh challenge in a completely foreign environment.
“The big thing for me, I went through a few personal things last year, so maybe a change mentally… I had a pretty draining year last year, and to be honest with you as well I’ve been playing for a long time so maybe just physically and mentally a change was the thing that was most stimulating for me at the moment,” Pearce said.
Andrew Johns returning to Knights
The 32-year-old claims he will try to learn some French before he goes but is resigned to having to use a translator app when he first moves over there.
“Someone told me there’s a translator app on the phone, so I think I’ll be walking around with that for the first six months,” he said.
“No, in all seriousness I’m going to try to learn some French before I go over there. Little simple things so I can try to fit in as quick as I can.”
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