James Maloney believes former Roosters teammate Mitchell Pearce deserves another chance at redemption, saying the troubled playmaker will make amends if allowed to return to the game.
Pearce is in a rehabilitation facility in northern Thailand after admitting to problems with alcohol. The future of the 26-year-old is uncertain after he was filmed on a smartphone making drunken, unwanted advances towards a woman and simulating sex with a dog. The NRL is unlikely to deliver a sanction soon, as Pearce is not expected to return from treatment for at least a month.
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Pearce's teammates and opponents have so far refused to comment on a situation that has divided public opinion. While some have called for Pearce to be deregistered permanently, others feel he was the victim of a sting aimed at selling his story to the highest bidder.
Maloney knows Pearce better than most, having played alongside him in the halves during his three years at the Bondi Junction. During that time they won a premiership - and three minor premierships - while also representing NSW at Origin level together.
The Cronulla recruit believes calls for a long ban are over the top and that Pearce should be allowed to return to the NRL.
"I understand it wasn't acceptable behaviour and I don't condone it, but we lose perspective at times," Maloney told Fairfax Media.
"There's a lot of things going on when we were putting him all over the front and back page of the paper.
"You look in a couple of pages and you're looking at king hits and domestic assaults and all of that. When you put it into perspective - and we understand it's unacceptable - we also lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day no one was hurt. That's what everyone sees as more important."
Maloney paid a heavy price for Pearce's previous indiscretion, the "girl in the yellow dress" episode. Pearce was fined and suspended after a woman made a complaint about his behaviour at Kings Cross, resulting in his axing from the Blues. Maloney was also a victim, with NSW coach Laurie Daley also dumping him because of his preference for a club halves combination for the 2014 campaign.
Maloney vouched for Pearce's character and wished him a speedy return to the game.
"He's a terrific fella," Maloney said.
"Everyone that knows him sticks by him and that doesn't happen if you're not a good bloke. There are always a lot of people to jump into his corner and stick up for him, and that says a lot about the bloke.
"He's made a mistake, an error, but he'll bounce back from it."
Maloney could be the beneficiary of Pearce's indiscretion this time should Daley again dump Pearce from Origin this season. However, the 29-year-old's focus was on a strong start with new club Cronulla.
"Obviously you'd be lying if you said you don't want to do [Origin], but it's not something I'm looking at," he said.
"My biggest challenge is moving to a new club and making sure I perform for them, that's my sole focus for the moment.
"I won't be looking too far ahead."
Maloney's first game for the Sharks will be during a trial against Manly on Sunday. The journeyman pivot is looking forward to his hitout alongside fellow Cronulla recruit Chad Townsend.
"I enjoyed watching him at the Warriors and he really improved in his time over there," he said.
"It's exciting to move to a different club, play with new players and play a different style of football.
"Chad has been really good. Hopefully we can spend a bit of time together this weekend and build something there."