14 Dec 2021

The Mitchell Pearce effect

A move to Catalans in 2022 is a new beginning for Mitchell Pearce. After a stellar career in the NRL spanning over 300 games, Pearce heads to the South of France to take on a new challenge in Betfred Super League. 

He joins the Dragons as a direct replacement for James Maloney – and is in many ways a carbon copy of the former Catalans half. Like Maloney, Pearce has won an NRL premiership and State of Origin series – in fact, he played alongside Maloney in the halves on both occasions. The pair are tough and rugged competitors with serious amounts of skill.

Pearce will be trusted to lead the Dragons around the park and brings with him a wealth of big game experience. He has battled through his fair share of adversity and showed plenty of mental grit to get back onto the field during a disrupted 2021 campaign. 

Plagued by injury problems, Pearce managed to play just 12 of Newcastle Knights 25 games last season. And whilst that does present a legitimate concern around how much game time Catalans will get from their new playmaker, his presence on the field during those 12 games was invaluable.

After featuring in the Knights opening four matches, Pearce was unavailable through injury until round 15. At that point, the Knights were third from bottom - sitting unconvincingly in fourteenth place and six places from a top eight play-off spot. Pearce played in six of the Knights next nine games – winning all six with him in the side – concluding with 15-14 win in Round 24 against Justin Holbrook’s Gold Coast Titans - a win which secured the Knights' place in the top eight. Pearce scored a try, kicked a 40/20 and slotted the winning drop goal in the final minute of an exhilarating contest. 

Despite a loss in the final round of the season when the Knights fielded a much weakened side, followed by an admiral defeat against Paramatta in the play-offs, Pearce's inclusion during the latter stages of the season was a huge factor in his sides end of year resurgence.

So, what can the Dragons expect from Pearce? Like Maloney, Pearce turns up when it matters. He can dictate games and has been the difference on numerous occasions during his glittering career. He takes on the line and is central to his sides attack – last season, he completed more than double the number of passes than his half back partner in all 12 of the games he played. He is a dominant playmaker that never shies away from responsibility. 

Pearce is more than capable with the boot as well – he sat in the top 10 average kick metres and kicks in general play across the NRL in 2021. And of course, he knows how to land a match-winning one pointer, which could be a game breaker for Catalans again next year.

Former Roosters teammate and new arrival at Hull FC, Kane Evans, can certainly vouch for Mitchell Pearce, having played with and against him over the past seven years - and the front rower has no doubts that Pearce will be an instant hit in Super League.

“I reckon he’s going to have a massive impact on the game. Not just because of his name, but what he brings on the field and what he’s done already overseas – I haven’t seen many resilient halves like him out there," Evans explained.

“Since I left the Roosters [in 2017], he’s probably been the best half back that I’ve seen. Expect big things from him. He’s definitely going to leave his mark over here in Super League – I have no doubt he’ll kill it."

Given his recent injury troubles, Pearce's durability will undoubtedly be the litmus test to his success in the South of France – but his presence around the squad and in particular alongside the young and exciting French talent will be crucial – just as Maloney’s influence was before him. 

However, Pearce is a competitor. There is no doubt he will do everything within his power to positively impact the Dragons. And after Catalans historic year in 2021, he could be the difference in taking the club one step further next year. 

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