'Unacceptable': Knights break silence on Mitchell Pearce texting scandal

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read
Mitchell Pearce (pictured) posing with his fiance Kristin Scott.
Mitchell Pearce (pictured) with his fiance Kristin Scott. (Images: Instagram)

Newcastle are considering stripping Mitchell Pearce of his NRL club captaincy following an alleged text messaging scandal with a staff member with reports it sparked the cancellation of his wedding.

The 31-year-old halfback is set to rejoin the group for pre-season training at the end of the week where he's expected to address teammates to apologise in an attempt to move on.

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However, the situation is made even more complicated with Knights second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon a close friend of the partner of the staff member who allegedly exchanged texts with Pearce.

On day one of the 2021 pre-season, general manager of football Danny Buderus said Pearce's alleged conduct was unacceptable.

“It's not acceptable, there’s no doubt about that,” the Newcastle Knights legend told media on Monday.

“It’s something we’re all striving for … culture. Culture for us is very important; what we stand for is highly important and we need those players to adhere to that.

“There are standards in all parts of our organisation and that behaviour is not acceptable.”

Buderus confirmed the leadership of the team was under review.

"At this stage for several months we've been addressing and looking at our leadership model within the club," Buderus said on Monday.

"Adam O'Brien is a big believer of strong leadership, group leadership, and we really need to hone down into that and work it out and we're still to finalise those decisions into which way we're going to go.

"We're going to take our time and roll it out.

"We have got some good candidates for leadership within that group but that will be for Adam and his team to work out which way the captaincy will go."

Buderus hoping Pearce situation handled right

As a former Knights captain himself, Buderus said Pearce's behaviour is not reflective of the culture that the club needs to be successful.

After making the finals for the first time in seven seasons last year, the Knights were looking forward to a bigger push for a title in 2021 with Origin forward Tyson Frizell joining the side on Monday.

The mood at Mayfield was a far cry from the enthusiastic welcome the Knights had hoped for Frizell given the uncertainty over Pearce and the potential fractures to the playing group.

However, Buderus said he's confident the team can move on once Pearce addresses the group later this week.

"If it's handled right it should be all OK for players to put it behind them," he said.

"One of our players is close to one of the people in the parties, so he's showed some leadership in and around it and understanding what he needs to move forward.

"We're addressing all of those things within the group to make sure all parties are happy to get back out on the footy field and do what they love, which is play rugby league.

"It needs to be addressed when he comes back otherwise it can fester within the group and to be honest I think Mitchell will like to do it that way."

The controversy comes at the worst possible time for Pearce professionally as he continues to negotiate with the club over a contract extension beyond this year.

He has previously stated that he wants to remain at the Knights but the sticking point is understood to be his asking price.

Buderus has confirmed Pearce will be at the club in 2021 but his future beyond that is yet to be finalised.

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