Cooper Cronk will be at the Sydney Roosters next year – but will Mitchell Pearce?
The Roosters confirmed on Monday they had signed the 33-year-old Kangaroos and former Melbourne halfback to a two-season contract, a coup that casts doubt on the future of their incumbent No.7.
While Roosters chairman Nick Politis has insisted he wants Cronk and Pearce to play alongside each other in the same team, the latter is reportedly disappointed and disgruntled about his treatment after 11 seasons and 238 games for the tricolours.
And waiting in the wings, along with Manly and Cronulla, are the Newcastle Knights. Knights coach Nathan Brown told the Newcastle Herald last week: “If he [Pearce] was to become available, we’d be silly as a club not to at least entertain the thought of trying to sit down and have a talk with him.”
It has since been reported that Brown has contacted Pearce’s father, former Balmain star Wayne Pearce, to express interest in the NSW Origin playmaker, and that there have been high-level conversations between Roosters and Knights officials.
Nonetheless, Roosters coach Trent Robinson was quoted on Monday saying he “absolutely” wanted to retain Pearce, even though the presence of livewire Luke Keary would suggest something has to give.
Pearce has two seasons to run on a deal estimated to be worth $800,000 per year. No club would appear in a better position to offer him top dollar than the Knights, who have a number of vacancies on their 2018 roster and considerable room to manoeuvre inside their salary cap.
If the Knights were successful in luring Pearce out of Sydney, it would instantly solve some of their problems while creating others.
Pearce’s former teammate, Connor Watson, has signed a three-year deal with Newcastle and been guaranteed first shot at five-eighth.
Former NSW halfback Trent Hodkinson and up-and-comers Brock Lamb and Jack Cogger all have another year to run on their deals. Should Pearce sign for the Knights, it will surely be a matter of when, not if, Lamb and Cogger start talking to rival clubs.