Mitchell Pearce revealed the personal heartbreak that led to his decision to leave the NRL behind and take up a deal on the other side of the world.
Mitchell Pearce has been welcomed back into the Roosters fold to train ahead of his move to the Catalans in France.
Pearce was squeezed out of the Roosters – where he won a premiership in 2013 – when Cooper Cronk arrived from the Storm at the end of 2017.
Catch all the ICC T20 World Cup action live & exclusive to Fox Cricket, available on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial today.
Roosters chairman Nick Politis extended the invitation to Pearce, who then spoke to former Catalans coach Trent Robinson about training with the Tricolours this month.
Robinson joined the Roosters in 2013 and won a premiership in his first season, with Pearce wearing the No. 7 jersey on grand final day.
“Robbo talked about how happy he was for me, and the opportunity over there,” Pearce told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“You know how deep he gets: he spoke about the language barrier, about body language. He spoke about how proud the town [Perpignan] is about their footy. To win the first comp for them would be amazing.
“And Nick has always been good to me. Even since I left, he’s spoken well of me.”
The Knights deliberated for several weeks before they granted Pearce his request to be released from the final year of his contract to join the Catalans.
“I tried to be as honest with them as I could be,” Pearce says.
“I had a one-year contract and the club said this was likely to be my last year anyway. Both parties understood what was best for them.
“It might’ve put the club in a hard situation right now, but that wasn’t my intention at all.“The hard conversations I had with [coach] Adam O’Brien made me feel like everyone understood. I was never asked, ‘Why are you doing this to us?’ Not face to face anyway. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the Knights.”
Pearce has endured a tumultuous 12 months off the field after his wedding was cancelled and his relationship broke down.
“It’s drained me more than I ever thought,” Pearce said.
“It was the worst year of my life. Stuffing up your wedding, all the shame that came with that. It’s not easy. The noise around the wedding and the families was hard. Super hard. It did make me tired by the end of it. It’s a big part of why I’m leaving.”
The 32-year-old has always taken responsibility for his behaviour but he believes the NRL are becoming too heavy handed in punishing players.
“If you do the wrong thing, you have to own up to it,” he said.
“What I don’t like now, with player behaviour, is how players get morally stitched up. I don’t like that. If I’ve done the wrong thing, I expect punishment. But what I don’t like is it’s getting a bit too easy to give people up.
“The NRL is fining players when they haven’t really done anything wrong. It’s taken the fun out of the game. That stuff is suffocating. Players feel like they’re in a foam box.”
Pearce leaves for France just after Christmas to begin a two-year deal with the option for a third Catalans’ way.
Rugby league great Mark Geyer told foxsports.com.au earlier this week that Pearce leaves the NRL a much-maligned but respected figure.
“He leaves the game in a very positive way, obviously much-maligned for several off-field stuff that’s happened to him,” Geyer said.
“But this is a kid who has been playing first grade since he was 17 and to play halfback in a competition that’s as tough as the NRL, for 15 years at the highest level.
“I think he leaves it as a memory of a kid who tried his guts out every time he played.
“He seemed to be the fall guy in both club and rep footy, whether that’s harsh or not – somebody had to be and he was the guy.
“I would imagine that pass he threw to Blake Ferguson in State of Origin a couple of years ago that set up the winning try for Teddy would probably be his finest moment.”