Pearce: Milestones, pressures and premierships
Mitchell Pearce couldn't stay away from the game.
Sure, rugby league is in his DNA but it goes beyond his famous father.
The nib Newcastle Knights halfback will run out for his 250th first grade game this Friday night against the Warriors, a significant milestone in his illustrious career thus far, which spans over 11 years.
Making his debut for the Sydney Roosters back in round 2 during the 2007 season, there isn't much Pearce hasn't achieved during his glittering career, having played 18 representative games and lifted the trophy as part of the 2013 premiership winning Sydney Roosters side.
Being the son of legendary Balmain hard man Wayne Pearce, this determined number seven had plenty of keen eyes set on him from an early age, however the 29-year old wasn't encouraged to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, but evidently couldn't shy away for his love of the game.
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"I always loved rugby league. I've been around it all the time since I was a kid and just watching footy and going to games. It was pretty much dad's life at the time," Peace told the Our Town Our Team podcast.
"It doesn't mean you love it but for some reason I had a love for it, similar to what my dad did and always wanted to play it."
Having a renowned rugby league father also came with added pressure for Pearce to continuously deliver on the field, a burden that didn't always sit well with the young halfback during the early stages of his career.
"When I started playing some good footy in the Schoolboy sides, I didn't want to look like I was any different to the other boys," he said.
"That extra pressure never sat well with me, I used to resent it a little bit. I didn't want that extra expectation."
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Pearce evidently lived up to the hype surrounding his game, after being selected for the 2008 New South Wales Blues side at just 19 years and two years later, made his first grand final appearance for the Sydney Roosters against the St George Illawarra Dragons, which they lost 32-8.
"I was really relaxed leading up to that grand final," he said.
"That was another year that was super enjoyable. (Coach) Brian Smith came in that year and brought a real fresh look to the team.
"I learnt a lot about ball playing that year as Brian is a really skilful coach."
Fortunately for Pearce, it only took a further three years before he ran out in his second grand final appearance for Roosters against the Manly Sea Eagles in 2013.
However this time, the result would be vastly different from the score line posted three years prior and provided the young half with a moment etched in history.
"It was the best feeling ever. I couldn't stop crying, I remember just crying," Pearce said.
"I remember mum and dad were in the sheds and I was just crying and mum said what's wrong with you?"
Every player dreams of the realisation that your just minutes away from becoming the NRL premiers, with the Sydney Roosters proclaiming victory with a try late in the match.
"I just remember with about two minutes to go, everyone knew the game was won and I remember everyone was crying in the defensive line and screaming, it's just such a good feeling," he recalled.
"It all feels surreal, everyone just feels so numb. I think it's just relief as well.
"A lot of luck goes into winning grand finals. You can have the best team, but everything has to be aligned to win a comp."
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While luck has played a part in Pearce's career with limited injuries, it's a credit to his preparation and dedication for being the youngest player in rugby league history to reach 200 first grade games.
"I was really proud to reach that milestone and hopefully it never gets broken," Pearce said.
"I'm thankful I've had a really clean run.
"I've worked really hard throughout my career and footy has always been my number one focus."
Pearce's focus now firmly lies with setting goals as Newcastle's captain for the next three years and atop of his list is to the make the top eight in 2019.
"Definitely next year making the top eight is a must for us," he declared.
"It's been a frustrating, disrupting year, but that's definitely a goal for 2019."