Rumours of a bombshell Mitchell Pearce switch won’t go away, despite the Newcastle Knights and Cronulla Sharks denying the reports.
Pearce denied he had been approached by incoming Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon when foxsports.com.au first reported the story last month.
But three weeks later, Fox League’s chief reporter James Hooper says the move is still a very real chance of happening.
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The veteran halfback was re-signed by the Knights earlier this year, but his 2022 contract is worth significantly less than the $1 million he is pocketing this season.
Cronulla will lose both Chad Townsend and Shaun Johnson at season’s end. They recently signed Nicho Hynes to play in the halves, but Fitzgibbon is on the lookout for an experienced No. 7 to partner the rookie playmaker.
“We spoke about it a couple of weeks ago, and absolutely it won’t go away,” Hooper told Fox League’s NRL 360 of the Pearce rumour.
“He’s contracted with Newcastle for next year, he will be back on the field soon from that injury … but there is definitely conversations going on in the background.”
After a heavy loss on Sunday, Knights coach Adam O’Brien bristled when quizzed about the Pearce reports.
“I think the same journalist said Junior (Pearce) is going to Cronulla, and that’s false and I’ve spoken to Craig Fitzgibbon,” O’Brien said.
“They are just bombs thrown at us that we have to deal with at the moment.”
O’Brien and Fitzgibbon worked together as assistant coaches at the Roosters, making a potential player raid awkward to say the least.
Fizgibbon played with Pearce, winning the 2013 NRL grand final together for the Chooks.
Kent believes the Knights and Pearce could easily part ways.
“You’ve got to remember he wanted two years and (Newcastle) only gave him one, and it came at a cut rate (salary),” Kent said.
“So it’s not like they were walking over broken bottles to try and get to him.”
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Daily Telegraph journalist Phil Rothfield also reported the news over the weekend, saying both camps have since denied any truth to it.
“Adam O’Brien didn’t like the story,” Rothfield said.
“He rang Craig Fitzgibbon on Sunday morning and Fitzgibbon has denied interest in Mitchell. I have to take him for his word.
“So I don’t think it will be happening.”
NRL 360 host Ben Ikin, though, is not so quick to believe the denials.
“It seems to be in rugby league everyone denies these stories until they happen,” he said.