Rugby League

Mitchell Pearce: Cruise, canines and candid camera - how it all unravelled for the Roosters halfback

When Mitchell Pearce and his Roosters teammates stumbled out of the Royal Oak Hotel at about 11pm on Tuesday, that should have been the end of their Australia Day festivities.

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The Bondi boys had been in a jovial mood for the previous two hours at the popular Double Bay establishment – "they had a sing, a dance and a drink" said one onlooker – but it had appeared the night had ended without incident.

The Royal Oak is a safe haven for the glamour club, having hosted countless staff meetings, Mad Mondays and Christmas parties over the years. None of the players were refused alcohol throughout the night or asked to leave and most poured themselves into taxis at closing time, armed with Cabcharge cards provided by the club's football manager.

"All of the Roosters were well-behaved and always have been," a spokesperson for the hotel said.

"There was a football manager with them to ensure that was the case. They were in good spirits and well-behaved. They are definitely welcome back."

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It had been a long day, beginning with an early training session in muggy conditions, followed by a four-hour harbour cruise. The squad spent much of it sinking Coronas in the knowledge it would be one of the last club-sanctioned blowouts before embarking on the World Club Series in England, via a training camp in Dubai.

While most called it a night, Pearce could not resist the chance to kick on – first at the Hotel Bondi and then at a private residence. Soon afterwards he was drunk and shirtless, captured on film in scenes that would prove a bonanza for A Current Affair and those who sold the vision. With him were Brisbane recruits Dale Copley and Jayden Nikorima, the latest unwitting footballing victims of Sin City.

What was not fully audible on the A Current Affair footage was one of the partygoers giving an alias when asked his name.

"Sam Moa," he replied, a reference to a Roosters teammate not at the scene.

When asked his middle name by another male, he was heard to say: "Blake Ferguson," with Pearce drunkenly clapping his hands and adding: "Exactly."

Whether it was a ploy to conceal their identities is unclear, but Copley and Nikorima were quickly identified by the club after the footage aired.

Pearce was captured on camera drunk and simulating a sexual act with a dog. One of the women also claimed he had urinated on the couch. When it comes to rugby league atrocities, this was a boxed trifecta.

Within minutes, the memes began circulating on social media and the Roosters were in damage control. As is protocol with such incidents, the club has the first right to investigate and sanction its players, with the NRL able to come in over the top should the punishments be deemed insufficient.

There were suggestions that stripping Pearce of the captaincy, fining him and banning their premiership-winning halfback for about six weeks may be enough to placate the governing body. But given Parramatta prop Junior Paulo copped nine weeks for a lifting tackle that went awry – the result of a split-second, on-field miscalculation – Pearce is bracing for a much longer stint on the sidelines.

While some pundits are demanding a speedy resolution, that is unlikely. The Roosters are operating without a CEO or chief operating officer following the departure of respected administrator Brian Canavan and are mindful that swift justice can be anything but. Cronulla found themselves under similar pressure to make a quick determination after images emerged of their serial offender, Todd Carney, in the infamous "bubbler" photo. The Sharks promptly terminated their star playmaker – perhaps too promptly – and the matter is now before the Supreme Court.

The players' association issued a timely reminder about the incident when, via a media release issued at 8:51pm on Wednesday, it stated it had "been in touch with the club and NRL officials to reinforce that any investigation must follow due process".

Pearce, one of the few players without an agent, is single after parting with his girlfriend. After being stood down from training on Thursday morning he sought the counsel of a trusted mate, waiting to learn whether his latest indiscretion is a career-ending one.

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