The NRL faces pressure to end Mitchell Pearce’s career over his “unacceptable” lewd and drunken behaviour captured on video.
The Sydney Roosters are weighing up whether to sack or suspend and fine their co-captain after the emergence of his lewd Australia Day antics.
The NRL’s adviser on women’s issues Catharine Lumby on Thursday called for the governing body to show leadership and deregister Pearce while the club’s major sponsor Steggles admitted they were “concerned” by the video.
The incident, Pearce’s second major off-field misdemeanour in two years, shapes as a test case for the club and the league.
Professor Lumby said the league needed to come down hard to show consistency in its stance against mistreatment of women.
“I think he should be stood aside. I think this should be the end of his career,” Professor Lumby told ABC News 24.
“I think you should not be able to get away with this. He’s a high profile athlete, it just sends the wrong message and the NRL has to continue to show leadership on this issue.”
Pearce was on Thursday stood down by the club after the video emerged showing him simulating sex with a dog, attempting to kiss a woman, who rebuffed him, and allegedly urinating on himself at a boozy Australia Day party.
Lumby believed the act with the dog was aimed at harassing the woman in the video.
“I think the whole thing was a form of harassment and disrespect towards the woman,” Lumby said.
Pearce was pictured with teammates on a Sydney Harbour boat cruise during the day and it is believed he moved on to a house party, where the video was filmed and later onsold to media.
Interim NRL chief executive John Grant could hardly hide his annoyance at the episode and said the organising body was working with the club to decide Pearce’s punishment.
“It’s difficult not to be disappointed,” Grant said.
“(The Roosters) will do their investigation and they’ll make a determination – presumably at the board level. We’ll sit with them in that process. At the end of the day we’ve got to come to an agreement on what we think is a fair and reasonable way to respond.”
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said the club was expected to hand down a disciplinary decision in the next few days and sacking was an option.
He said he was disappointed in Pearce, who had apologised to him and the playing group.
“The behaviour was unacceptable, we understand that and at the Roosters we can’t accept that, we won’t” Robinson said.
Early reports suggested Pearce would face a hefty fine and suspension as well as losing the Roosters captaincy.
But former NRL bad boy Mark Geyer called for the halfback to be given a 12-month ban.
“He needs to be suspended for 12 months, get a real job away from football and undergo both counselling and rehab,” Geyer told Triple M.
“He needs to be taken out of the system that he joined as a kid to appreciate what he’s got.
“He is obviously powerless when affected by alcohol and cannot control his behaviour.
“Pearce needs help and needs to be as far away from footy as possible.”
A ban for Pearce would be a big blow for the Roosters following the departure of veteran five-eighth James Maloney to Cronulla.
Rookie Jayden Nikorima would be the most likely candidate to fill Pearce’s shoes, leaving the tri-colours very short on experience in the halves with 20-year-old Jackson Hastings set to take over from Maloney at No.6.
This is not the first time Pearce has found himself in trouble because of issues with alcohol.
In 2014, he was dropped from the NSW State of Origin squad and fined $20,000 by the Roosters after a nightclub incident in Kings Cross where a female patron complained about his advances and he was asked to leave the venue.
After that incident, he went on a self-imposed alcohol ban and was named the Roosters co-captain the next year as well as earning back his NSW Blues jersey.
NSW skipper Paul Gallen was supportive of the troubled halfback on Thursday and criticised those who filmed and sold the video.
“The biggest concern at the moment is Mitchell’s own health and that he gets himself right,” said Gallen.
“People make mistakes, we all make mistakes and unfortunately when it involves us (NRL) guys, those mistakes generally appear to be bigger.
“The environment we will live in today is an absolute fishbowl and people are willing to…I suppose profit out of that and things can go wrong very, very quickly as is what has happened in this case.”