Clubs line up as Roosters release Pearce
DISGRUNTLED Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce has officially asked the club for a release from his contract - and the club has granted it
Pearce returned home from the United States last week and informed coach Trent Robinson of his decision over lunch.
The Roosters on Monday afternoon confirmed that Pearce had been granted a release from the remaining two years of his contract.
"Obviously, this hasn't been an easy decision for me to come to, but I feel that it's the right one," Pearce said.
"I've been with the Roosters since I was 17 and have grown into a man here. I've made a lot of close friends at the club, and I've always been proud to wear the Roosters jersey.
"The Roosters club and people there will always mean a lot to me, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity and challenge joining a new club will bring, while continuing to push myself to be the best halfback I can be. Now that I've made this decision, hopefully I'll have the rest of my future sorted over the next few weeks."
The disappointment of having to play behind Kangaroos halfback Cooper Cronk is the sole reason for his decision to end a decade-long career at the Bondi club.
The Cronulla Sharks, Manly Sea Eagles and Newcastle Knights are the front-runners to sign the Blues State of Origin halfback, while there has also been interest from Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos.
Manly appear set to make a big play for Pearce, having on Monday released five-eighth Blake Green from the final year of his contract.
New Manly CEO Lyall Gorman said the news of Green being released after it emerged Pearce wanted out of the Roosters was "purely coincidental''.
"I can assure you there have been no discussions with Mitch,'' Gorman said.
"It's purely coincidental the announcements have come out in the last 10 minutes.
"Blake had a long-term opportunity at another club, and we weren't sure where we'd go with him after 2018, it's not to set a precedent, but in this case we were happy to support Blake and help him secure the long-term security for his family.
"We've very conscious of the protocols of the game, but if a talented footballer comes on to the market, it's incumbent upon us to listen on behalf of our members and fans and corporate partners.
"We'd certainly listen.''
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan was unaware Pearce had requested a release until contacted by The Daily Telegraph and said: "From our perspective, nothing has changed. It will be 'heads-down bum up', and we'll be continuing with our pre-season.''
Sharks players have been in contact with Pearce about a move to the Shire, with Pearce a chance to join NSW teammates Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan in a summer move to the club.
Former Balmain great Steve Roach was one of the first to publicly declare his good friend was entitled to be upset about the Cronk signing, and was hardly shocked about the release request.
"I would have done the same thing,'' Roach said.
"They could play together, but he's been the halfback there for a decade, and it's virtually saying 'you can't do the job', so you're better off going somewhere they think you can.''
Pearce has played 238 games for the Roosters since making his NRL debut as a teenager in 2007, and helped the club win the 2013 premiership.
"We all love Pearcey - he has developed very strong relationships with a number of people at the club and we have been through a lot together," Roosters chairman Nick Politis said.
"While it would have been great to see him continue to add to his legacy at the Roosters, we respect his decision.
"Mitchell will always be a Rooster, and he leaves with our sincerest thanks and very best wishes."
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said: "We've been through a lot and I have a lot of respect for Junior both as a footballer and as a man.
"I'd personally like to thank Pearcey for the role he's played at the Roosters. He's a good person who will always have many friends at the club, and I know I speak on behalf of everyone in wishing him all the very best."