Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has given up trying to understand why Mitchell Pearce attracts such vitriolic criticism, as his star halfback closes in on an NRL record that may never be broken.
Pearce will become the youngest player ever to record 200 first-grade games when he captains the Roosters against Canterbury in the opening game of round 21 at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
The NSW pivot made his NRL debut in 2007 aged 17. NRL rules now stipulate players must be 18 to play first grade.
That and Pearce’s injury-free career could ensure his 200-game mark accumulated at 26 years and 115 days, superseding former Rooster Craig Wing, could stand the test of time.
But despite his achievements along the way, including the 2013 premiership win, Pearce continues to be a magnet for criticism.
He was again the focus of much of it following the Blues’ State of Origin III capitulation, despite his impressive return to representative football during the series.
“I have been surprised (by the criticism),” Robinson said.
“And knowing him personally it is hard as a coach and as a friend to see that happen and to see that happen so publicly.
“But all he can do is suck it up and win, that is the response, that is the only response we can have from the Roosters and he can have as a player.
“I’m not sure why (it happens). It is hard to answer, I have thought about it a bit, but then given up thinking about it. We are just there supporting him.”
Robinson said the milestone indicated Pearce’s durability as a footballer.
“That is pretty incredible, I’m very proud for Pearcy,” he said.
“To play 200 games in the short period of time he has played is a great achievement to his talent an durability.
“I think he has only missed 15 games in that time, I’m sure a few of those would have been through Origin, it would be hard to beat.”
Pearce, son of former Kangaroo Wayne praised his lineage.
“I thank my genetics for that,” he said.
“I think a lot of it is to do with the way your makeup is. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been durable and haven’t had too many injuries. I’m really proud of the achievement and I’m looking forward to having a big game for my teammates.”
Pearce’s youth will give him a chance of breaking Darren Lockyer’s record of 355 first-grade games.