Mitchell Pearce has been suspended from the first eight rounds of the new NRL season and fined $75,000 for his drunken, lewd Australia Day antics.
The NSW and Sydney Roosters star was hit by the ban and a $125,000 fine, $50,000 of which has been suspended for two years, after 24 hours of heated discussions between Roosters powerbrokers Nick Politis and John Lee and the NRL’s most senior official, ARLC Commissioner John Grant.
The punishment follows the emergence of a video showing a Pearce simulating a sex act with a dog at a party after a long day of Australia Day celebrations.
The Roosters hoped for a ban of around three to four weeks, with the NRL pushing for a heftier sanction of 12 weeks.
In the end the parties met in the middle.
The punishment means Pearce’s hopes of keeping his NSW State of Origin jersey remain alive.
He will returns for the Roosters on April 30 in their round nine clash with Newcastle at Allianz Stadium.
That will give him three matches to impress Blues coach Laurie Daley before he picks his side for State of Origin I on May 24.
Pearce, who spent a month in a rehab clinic and was stripped of the Roosters co-captaincy, will return to club training on Monday.
The key playmaker’s ban throws a huge load on young Roosters halves Jackson Hastings and Jayden Nikorima to steer their team through the first two months off the competition.
Roosters teammates appeared resigned to Pearce’s long stint on the sideline.
“If that’s what it is, we just have to cop it on the chin,” said Roosters back-rower Aidan Guerra.
Pearce apologised to his teammates over the incident at training on Monday.
“He was very apologetic and we accepted that,” utility Mitch Aubusson said.
“And now we move on to the footy on Sunday.”
The Roosters open their season on Sunday against South Sydney at Allianz Stadium.