Sam Hall July 14, 2012
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA's fruitless search for a long-term halfback has hit another snag, with Roosters boss Stephen Noyce formally blocking their move for Mitchell Pearce.
After missing out on Cooper Cronk in March, the Herald understands the Dragons made an all-out bid to lure Pearce to the Red V next season, a year before his contract with the Roosters expired.
But Noyce rejected claims Pearce would be leaving the Bondi Junction club when contacted yesterday.
''Speculation and rumours aren't good things to comment on - Mitchell's here for this year and next year and we look forward to him fulfilling that contract, and many more years and many more contracts after that,'' Noyce said.
Asked whether he still believed Pearce was future captain material, Noyce said, ''Oh, definitely''.
''We enjoy having Mitchell at our club, and certainly the plans are that he'll be very much a part of the exciting future of the Roosters this year, next year and beyond.''
The Dragons are eager to settle on a long-term pivot to succeed captain Ben Hornby, but a lack of quality halves on the open market has them going around in circles.
Noyce's St George-Illawarra counterpart, Peter Doust, did not return calls yesterday.
Pearce's manager, Mike Newton, said he would wait until the outcome of the NRL's broadcast rights deal before taking up the matter.
''I haven't spoken to anyone,'' Newton said. ''He's under contract next year … I'm not looking at it until we know the lay of the land in regards to the salary cap and everything else.
''We won't know that until the end of the year and I won't be talking to anyone before November 1 [when the official bidding contest for 2014 gets under way] in any case.''
The cap will rise from $4.3 million per club to at least $5 million next season thanks to the anticipated $1 billion-plus rights deal. Players such as Pearce, whose current value hovers at about $650,000 a season, could score big pay rises.
Pearce's stocks have risen considerably since he last put pen to paper with the Roosters. He has now made nine Origin and three City-Country appearances.
''It's not a hidden fact that halfbacks aren't easy to come by, let alone 23-year-old halfbacks with 120-odd first-grade games and representative honours,'' Newton said.
He said he had given the Roosters verbal assurances which prevented rival clubs from making an early play at Pearce, who is yet to formally discuss his future with his manager.
''I've told the Roosters I'm not interested in talking to anyone until next year - they're aware of that,'' Newton said. ''I hear the rumours and I read the rumours but I haven't spoken to anyone.''