MITCHELL PEARCE has seen and done it all in Rugby League but he’s the first to admit that he’s never too old to make mistakes.
The 33-year-old former NRL and State Of Origin star is looking forward to his second campaign in Super League to put right the wrongs of 2022, when he ended the season with a sinbin in the final moments of Catalans Dragons’ ignominious defeat to Leeds Rhinos in a bad-tempered play-off in Perpignan.
Pearce admits it was a less than perfect finish to his first year in the European competition. But he promises that lessons have been learned by himself and his team-mates.
He told League Express: “There were good parts and disappointing parts; we started the year solid with plenty of wins on the board even with a tough draw in the opening weeks.
“We found some really good form mid-season too but we faded away at the end with a fair few injuries and our form dropped for five or six weeks.
“I had a calf strain and missed a few games and I think we’d all like to play that last game against Leeds again.
“You have to take the lessons and go again.”
Pearce blames indiscipline and injuries for the Dragons’ inability to repeat the previous year’s League Leaders’ Shield and Grand Final appearance.
He added: “We need a bit more discipline as a team, even when we were winning games, we were giving away a lot of penalties, some of them stupid; our goal is to improve our discipline.
“We’ve got to play for the whole season and develop our combinations probably better than we did last season, especially in our defence.”
Pearce has returned from visiting family in Australia and took part in his first pre-season training session at Stade Gilbert Brutus last week.
He said: “We need a strong foundation through pre-season and our game will grow from that.
“I only started back last week but it’s all good and what few boys we have at this stage are all looking nice and fit.
“Being a French team the majority of our squad were involved in the World Cup, plus Sammy, Micky and Mike (Tomkins, McIlorum and McMeeken) were with the English side, so we’ve got a small training squad at the moment but it’s a good little crew and we’re all getting stuck in and enjoying each other’s company.”
Pearce is looking forward to linking up again with his former Sydney Roosters’ team-mate Sio Siua Taukeiaho, who is a headline recruitment for Catalans in 2023.
He added: “Siua is a great player, still one of the better players in the NRL but he obviously wanted a freshen-up and a change. I’ve played a fair bit of footy with him and he’ll be a big addition for us; he’ll be hard to stop over here for sure.
“Manu Ma’u (signed from Hull FC) too will be good for us, I never liked playing against him because I hated trying to tackle him, he’s a really tough man.”
Pearce said Super League standards impressed him following his first year but refused to compare the competition with the NRL.
He added: “It’s a tough standard over here; each competition has its different strengths so it’s hard to compare them.
“Footy’s footy wherever you play it. You’ve got to have good defence, maintain your form and be resilient for an entire season in whatever competition you’re in.
“There’s been so many differences for me, different country, lifestyle and new friends away from my family back home in Australia.
“I’ve been here a year and it’s all still pretty new to me, there’s plenty yet to see and learn but I’m really enjoying my time in Europe.”
Pearce still has plenty footy in him but once he hangs up the boots, he is considering a switch to coaching.
While he was in Australia recently, he spent time at the Roosters’ junior development facility speaking to young players and he enjoyed the experience.
He said: “The Roosters have a big junior development set-up and it’s really state-of-the-art with all the young kids coming through.
“Some of my old team-mates Mitch Aubusson, Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner are running the programme and I was lucky enough to get back, step in and watch some training and speak to some of the kids.
“The Roosters will always be close to my heart; I played there for most of my career and they are doing great stuff, it’s a very professional club.
“I’d definitely be interested in the coaching side of the game in the future; at this part of your career you have to look forward and make sure you find some purpose.
“Regardless of what you choose to do, you need to have a fire in your belly, just like you have when you play footy, you have to transfer that into whatever comes next.
“Whether or not that’s coaching for me, I’ll find some answers over the next twelve or eighteen months.”
The Roosters’ connection with the Dragons took a step further last week with Catalans confirming the signing of Sydney’s 25-year-old utility back Adam Keighran.
The Australian-born former New Zealand Warriors centre only played two games for the Roosters in 2022 but Catalans head coach Steve McNamara said: “Adam is a player whose career is taking off and exactly what we need.
“Tough, uncompromising and talented, he is a great signing.”