The dramatic fallout over Mitchell Pearce's texting scandal has taken another twist, with the Newcastle Knights players vanishing from fiancee Kristen Scott's Instagram account.
Pearce and Scott were due to get married on December 29 but called it off just days beforehand after alleged inappropriate text messages from the Knights player to a young female employee of the club emerged.
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Some of the biggest names in rugby league were set to attend the Byron Bay wedding, with reports that some of the 150 guests were notified as late as Christmas Eve that it had been called off.
In the lead-up to their big day, Pearce's fiancee had posted a series of photos to Instagram that showed the loved-up couple hugging and embracing.
However, Pearce has not been seen in any of Scott's photos on social media since the beginning of November.
There are photos of Scott celebrating her 29th birthday, as well as Christmas and New Year's Eve, however, Pearce does not feature in any of them.
Pearce's absence from any of his fiancee's social media activity has led to suggestions that their relationship is over.
The Newcastle halfback confirmed in January that the couple was "working things out".
Pearce broke down earlier this month during an emotional press conference after confirming his decision to stand down as the club’s captain, in the wake of the scandal.
After a meeting with club staff, Pearce told the Knights' playing group of his decision in early January, before their return to pre-season training.
The former NSW State of Origin halfback read a written statement to reporters at a media conference on Thursday, the first time he has spoken publicly since his wedding to fiancee Kristen Scott 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.
"It is a private matter and their welfare is the number one priority before football but ... the group is not divided," O'Brien told reporters.
"If anything, Tuesday served to probably galvanise them a little bit.
"They 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."
The Knights have named a five-man leadership group, with one of them to be named the club's new captain in March.
The group includes Kalyn Ponga, forward Mitch Barnett, NSW Origin front rower Daniel Saifiti, veteran five-eighth Blake Green and hooker Jayden Brailey.
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