Newcastle Knights player Lachlan Fitzgibbon insists he has moved on with Mitchell Pearce after a texting scandal that threatened to destabilise the club.
The 31-year-old star recently stepped down from the club captaincy role following a text messaging scandal involving an employee at the NRL club.
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His wedding with fiancee Kristin Scott is now off, and Pearce hasn't appeared in any of his fiancee's social media photos since the start of November.
Fitzgibbon is a good friend of the boyfriend of the Knights staffer embroiled in the controversy and as such, he was reportedly furious with Pearce when the story came to light.
The ugly saga threatened to create a wedge between Newcastle teammates but Fitzgibbon says the club has "moved on" from the unfortunate situation as one.
“We are a family here at the Knights and you don’t throw one of your family out,” Fitzgibbon said, as reported by the Newcastle Herald.
Fitzgibbon and Pearce were seen joking together and in good spirits at a pre-season photo shoot this week, suggesting the pair have buried the hatchet.
Knights legend and head of football Danny Buderus confirmed earlier in January that it was imperative for Pearce to address the saga with his teammates before they got stuck into pre-season training.
“It definitely needs to be addressed (immediately) when he comes back … otherwise it can fester among the group,” Buderus said.
“Something needs to be said and once it’s said we can all move on.”
Pearce's tumultuous off-season took a fresh twist this week when it was revealed he will undergo surgery after injuring his thumb at training.
The surgery is said to be minor and Pearce is confident of lining up for Newcastle in the opining round of the season on March 12.
“I’ll get surgery and I should be back out with the ball in two weeks,” Pearce told the Daily Telegraph.
“It’s a small little hiccup, but it’s a long year.”
Scandal saw Pearce stand down as captain
The injury blow comes at the worst-possible time for Pearce, who is trying to get his life back on track following the texting scandal.
After a meeting with club staff, Pearce told the Knights’ playing group of his decision to step down before their return to pre-season training.
The former NSW State of Origin halfback read a written statement to reporters at a media conference, the first time he has spoken publicly since his wedding was called off last month.
“It's been a traumatic few weeks in my personal life and for those I love,” Pearce said.
“Unfortunately my actions have impacted the team and, more importantly, the people I have closest to me, Kristen and my family.
“I'm taking steps now to address these issues and I feel it would be in the best interests of the club for me to step down as captain for the season.
“I love this club and I love my family and I've committed to working as hard as I can to be the best man I can be both on and off the field.”
Knights coach Adam O'Brien said Pearce's off-field saga was “not an ideal situation” for a club desperate for success after making the finals for the first time in seven seasons in 2020, only to be bundled out in week one.
O’Brien said the decision to step down was Pearce's own call and dismissed any speculation of a rift within the playing group, with senior players understood to be close friends with the long-term partner of the Knights staffer involved in the scandal.
The coach said he believed the ugly saga may have actually "galvanised" the playing group.
“They (the players) understand that the team is like a family. They understand that family members make mistakes.
“If we're a good family, you don't turn your back on family members, you support them.”
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