Former Sydney Roosters five-eighth James Maloney believes the Mitchell Pearce drama was blown out of proportion and backed his ex-teammate to return to his best in the NRL this year.
Pearce’s rugby league career remains in limbo as he addresses alcohol problems at an overseas rehabilitation clinic following his lewd Australia Day antics.
The NSW State of Origin No.7 has already missed his club’s World Club Series trip to England, and is almost certain to draw a heavy fine as well as the loss of the captaincy.
But the biggest punishment for being recorded drunk and simulating sex with a dog is the likelihood of a lengthy suspension, topping off a fallout that Maloney believes was bigger than it needed to be.
“I completely understand the fact that it’s unacceptable and it’s a bad look for the game, but I also think people get a bit carried away when someone with a profile stuffs up,” Maloney told AAP.
“I think perspective goes out the window a little bit and it becomes a bigger story than what the incident probably was.”
Both the NRL and the Roosters have refrained from making a final punishment until Pearce returns to the country, but Maloney, who departed Bondi to join Cronulla over the summer, was confident Pearce would make a successful comeback to the game.
“I know Mitch is overseas sorting himself out and getting himself right. That’s good to see and to be honest, I can’t wait for him to come back and be playing some good footy for the Roosters,” he said.
“He’ll be back in no time.”
For now, the Roosters will rely on rookie pivot Jayden Nikorima to partner another promising youngster in Jackson Hastings in the most inexperienced halves pairing in the competition.
Add in long-term injuries to Boyd Cordner (pectoral) and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (knee), and coach Trent Robinson could be in for a difficult start to the year.
“Yeah, they’ll be quite light on early in the season, but they had a good performance in the World Club Series, they’ve got a really good coach, and they’ve never been side that hasn’t got enough talent on the roster,” Maloney said.
“They’ll be right.”