Resilient Pearce wants to play NRL forever

·2-min read

Mitchell Pearce was the youngest player in NRL history to play 200 games but his next 99 came through sheer resilience and a dogged determination to play forever.

In 2015 he hit the 200-game milestone with the Sydney Roosters as a 26 year-old, but now at 31, much has changed ahead of his next achievement on Sunday.

The Newcastle halfback has been one of the most maligned players of this generation but says it has never knocked his love of the game.

Not when he was suspended for eight games back in 2016 and dropped as Roosters co-captain for making a lewd gesture with a dog - a sanction which the NRL later admitted was too tough.

Not when he was replaced at the Tricolours after 11 years by Cooper Cronk.

Not when he recently lost the Knights captaincy for mistakes in his personal life, nor each time he has been criticised for a bad performance on the big stage.

It has only ever made him more determined.

"I like to see myself as someone who is pretty resilient, that's the way I was raised and when something goes wrong, you just man up, own it and try and get on with life. It's all you can do," he told AAP.

"You can't look backwards.

"Every footy player is like that.

"That's one of the biggest things you love about your teammates and the guys who play rugby league, it's such a tough sport and they're such tough characters in the game.

"Getting yourself up week in and week out, putting up with criticism and all of that ... it's why we have so much respect for each other."

The son of Balmain Tigers legend Wayne Pearce has more than carved out a name of his own in the NRL after winning the 2013 premiership with the Roosters.

And ahead of his 300th game against Wests Tigers on Sunday he refuses to put a limit on what he can achieve in the game after signing a one-year extension with the Knights.

The former NSW Origin star is happy to keep doing that until his body or mind gives up.

But it's not likely to happen any time soon.

"I hope I can play footy forever, I love it," he said.

"I've never enjoyed it more than what I do now.

"I'm at a great club with great mates and great coaching staff and living in a good place, just re-signed for another year so my focus is just purely on one day at a time, one week at a time.

"I've been doing that for the last 15 years and it's gone so fast, so I guess I'll just keep worrying about the moment and enjoying it and before you know it I'll be 40."