What’s next after sensational Pearce decision
MITCHELL Pearce is on the market after he was released by the Roosters.
That leaves the Chooks playing a high stakes game and one rival club sitting pretty in the battle to capitalise.
Here are the five burning questions lingering over Pearce's massive call.
What does it mean for Roosters?
No doubt this is a blow but it also simplifies things going into the 2018 season.
If Pearce had decided to stick it out, the dynamics between him, Cooper Cronk, Luke Keary and Jake Friend would have been challenging to say the least and probably disruptive.
Either Pearce or Keary would have finished up on the bench, where neither of them would have been happy, and speculation over their futures would have been a constant distraction.
Even if Pearce leaving forces Trent Robinson into Plan B, at least it gives the side 100 per cent clarity going into next season.
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We now know Cronk and Keary will be the halves, Friend will keep his No.9 jersey and the three of them will form an outstanding spine with James Tedesco.
It will also minimise the confusion around whose team it is. Pearce has been 'the man' for the Roosters for so long that even with a statesman like Cronk wearing the No.7 jersey, it would have been difficult for him to fully assert himself.
That's no longer a concern and the Roosters' Cronk era can go into full flight.
Who has the most to lose?
Clearly Trent Robinson and the Roosters. With Pearce gone and Cronk only a short-term proposition, the Chooks are in a position where they simply must win a premiership in the next two years or wind up with egg all over their face.
Pearce was good enough to win a premiership in 2013 and has led the Roosters to three premierships and this season's second-place finish, before falling to the Cowboys in the preliminary final.
In that game it was the forwards who didn't aim up rather than failures from Pearce that cost the Tricolours, so there's no doubt making a massive play for Cronk was a strong reaction.
Cronk is an extremely good halfback and very few good judges would try to argue that Pearce is superior.
However, after more than a decade at the club, there's a school of thought that at 28 the NSW halfback is only just arriving at his best years.
Cronk is 33, and as well as he prepares, the 2016 Dally M Medallist's decline will have to start eventually.
If it happens in the next two years and the Roosters start to go backwards, expect the fans to start getting on the case of Robinson and powerful owner Nick Politis.
Who are the leading contenders?
Manly appear to be in the box seat to land Pearce after releasing five-eighth Blake Green on Monday.
It's long been speculated Green would leave the Sea Eagles and move to the Warriors if the northern beaches club could land a big fish to partner Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves.
They went after Cronk but will settle for the NSW halfback.
The other main contenders in the hunt for Pearce's signature are said to be Cronulla and Newcastle.
The Sharks have already been big off-season market movers with the stunning James Maloney-Matt Moylan swap deal, but might not be done just yet.
Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen has already revealed text messages have been exchanged between he and Pearce since it became clear the halfback was weighing up a future away from Bondi.
The Knights would move mountains to sign a big-name Origin player like Pearce as the club has plenty of cash left under the NRL's salary cap.
They too went after Cronk but would happily settle for the premiership-winning halfback pushed out of the Roosters.
There's also speculation linking Melbourne and the Broncos with moves for Pearce.
Who needs him most?
It's looking like a long shot, with reports indicating Pearce has no interest in moving to Newcastle, but the Knights could do with him more than any other club.
Although they have a halves pairing for 2018 and beyond with plenty of promise, with Brock Lamb and Connor Watson both good young footballers, Pearce's class and experience would instantly make the Knights a strong finals contender.
Not only that, it would help the club solve a strange salary cap problem, with Newcastle in real danger of breaching the salary cap by underspending.
They currently have the best part of $2 million to spend and there are very few stars on the market with the potential to make a dent in that.
Pearce would command upwards of $1 million-a-season at Newcastle, giving them a marquee to take them closer to the $9.4 million mark.
In an intriguing subplot, Manly released five-eighth Green just minutes after it became public knowledge that Pearce had requested a release.
Obviously that puts the Sea Eagles in a position where they are now in search of a half to partner Cherry-Evans, with Pearce at the top of their list.
For other clubs linked to Pearce's signature, such as Cronulla, Brisbane and Melbourne, Pearce would ostensibly be the icing on the cake.
What are the potential domino effects?
Whenever a star playmaker comes onto the market, it sends the transfer circus into overdrive as other clubs react.
In this case the Sea Eagles have already released Green to the Warriors, so if Manly land him that will likely put an end to the carousel.
But if they miss out, plenty of balls would become suspended in the air waiting for Pearce's decision.
If the Sharks get him Matt Moylan would almost certainly be switched to fullback, with Valentine Holmes sent back to a wing. Salary cap space is available but Pearce would make it tight, potentially forcing a second-tier player out of the roster.
If the Knights got him Watson and Lamb would be forced into a battle to partner him, with the other likely to be benched or dropped to reserve grade.
Melbourne would have a straight swap for Cronk if they got Pearce, putting him in No.7 and forcing Brodie Croft to continue to toil for a long-term opportunity or ask for a move.
Brisbane would likely go with a Pearce-Anthony Milfold halves pairing, putting Kodi Nikorima back to the bench and potentially on the radar of rival clubs.