FOR years Mitchell Pearce looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on his back at the Sydney Roosters.
But during his first training session with his new Newcastle Knights teammates , the NRL’s most maligned playmaker appeared more relaxed and comfortable in his own skin than he has in a long, long time.
This is the reason why Paul Gallen and Johnathan Thurston are wrong to think Pearce has made the wrong call choosing the reigning wooden spooners over Cronulla and Manly, or even staying at the Roosters.
Because what you can’t ignore is that Pearce is convinced Newcastle is the best fit for him.
“When I left the Roosters I had an open mind about where I wanted to play,” Pearce said.
“As soon as I came to Newcastle, I actually called Dad on the way home and said there is something special, the club is building a really good place.
“I see myself at a point of my career where I am excited to take that leadership role.”
And after giving his all in a gruelling first up session in front of the biggest media turnout at a Knights’ training day since Wayne Bennett was in town, Pearce spent his time making his way around his new teammates, and catching up with some familiar faces like ex-Roosters Connor Watson, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Aidan Guerra.
While it might not be the same star-studded roster he is used to, one thing Pearce does see is huge potential.
As good as most believe Pearce will end up being for the Knights, you get the feeling the man himself thinks he can gain plenty just by helping this proud old footy town get back on its feet.
“It is a really proud day for me,” Pearce smiled.
“Obviously I have been at the one club my whole career.
“It is a massive change but as soon as I came up to Newcastle and met up with the staff and spoke to a few of the boys there was something inside of me that was really keen to be a part of it.
“I can’t wait to get the journey started.”
Pearce dead-batted a question relating to Gallen’s apparent fears that Pearce’s “rep career may be the casualty”.
“I didn’t even read it,” Pearce responded.
And as for Thurston’s advice that he should have stayed at the Roosters to learn how to be a better halfback from Cooper Cronk, Pearce calmly responded: “There is no doubt I could have learnt something from Cooper Cronk.
“Cooper Cronk is one of the greatest halfbacks we have seen.
“It was nothing personal against Cooper. I spoke with Cooper a couple of times on the phone.
“I have the utmost respect for Cooper. I have said it publicly.
“My decision was nothing to do with me and Cooper.
“There is no doubt I could have learnt and picked up a couple of things off Cooper. There is also a lot of things I can pick up with this group and this club.
“I had to make a decision that was best for me and my family. This is why I am here.”