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Mitchell Pearce's playing career is set to be on hold while he enters an overseas rehabilitation clinic for alcohol problems as the NRL confirmed it was investigating alleged text messages detailing the behaviour of Sydney Roosters players at the Royal Oak Hotel and the party where the NSW Origin playmaker later disgraced himself on video.
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Mitchell Pearce fronts the media
Mitchell Pearce makes a brief statement apologising for his drunken behaviour caught on camera on Australia Day.
Images of the alleged text messages from a fellow partygoer, who claimed to have caught a taxi with Pearce and teammates to the apartment of a woman where the heavily intoxicated 26-year-old Roosters captain was filmed in simulated sex act with a dog, were posted on social media on Friday. The text messages make reference to "liney lineys" which can refer to cocaine.
While the NRL integrity unit is checking the veracity of the texts to make sure they are not part of a social media hoax, Fairfax Media understands investigators are treating them seriously.
According to the alleged texts, Pearce was "whaled" and had been "humping Bella" while another person at the party named Jack filmed the events. It was suggested that an approach would be made to the Daily Mail to buy the footage and within a day digital media exchange company Diimex was offering the video to media outlets. The alleged exchange reads as follows:
The alleged text message exchange reads as follows:
- Jack has to send you a video of Mitchell Pearce humping Bella
Thinking about selling it to the daily mail to end his career
- I had to google Mitchell Pearce! Haha. Wait, humping the dog?
- yep so f---ed and pissed on her lounge
he was whaled
- Sounds like an absolute pig
Is Cyn friends with him?
- No none of us were - they were with us at the oak and they were pretty normal - giving out liney lineys and then they jumped a cab with me back to hers and went f---ing ape shit! Jack just sat there filming it all
The players had been on a club-sanctioned harbour cruise on Australia Day before going to the Royal Oak in Double Bay, where they were given Cabcharge cards from Roosters officials and told to go home. But Pearce and new recruits Dale Copley and Jayden Nikorima continued partying.
An NRL spokesman said: "The integrity unit is in possession of the alleged text messages but makes no further comment on its investigation."
The alleged text messages surfaced on social media after Pearce had read a 35-second statement to media in a Surry Hills park at 1pm.
Accompanied by his mother Terri, sister Tatum and friend Liam Roach, the son of Balmain great Steve Roach, Pearce looked a shattered man after his very public humiliation.
"I'm embarrassed and take full responsibility for my actions," Pearce said. "I acknowledge that I have a problem with alcohol and it's something I need to address. It's not an excuse but finally a realisation that I finally need help.
"Together with the club I'm working on a solution for me to address the issues which will come out in the next couple of days. I just want to thank everyone for turning up and I apologise again."
The Roosters confirmed on Friday night that Pearce would undergo counselling or rehabilitation after his second alcohol-related incident in two years, following his arrest outside a Kings Cross nightclub on the eve of the 2014 season that cost him his place in the Blues team that finally ended Queensland's eight-year State of Origin domination.
It is understood that Pearce had felt the need to make a public apology because he is the Roosters captain, the incident occurred three weeks before the club's first game of the season against St Helens in the World Club Series and he is returning from injury.
No decision has been made on what penalty the Roosters and NRL will impose but Pearce is expected to be stripped of the captaincy, to be fined $50,000 and to be suspended for six matches or more.
However, the length of the suspension may be largely irrelevant as Pearce will reportedly spend six weeks in an overseas rehabilitation clinic while he seeks help for the alcohol problem which he has now admitted.
There is speculation that the Roosters sleeve sponsor QBE is reviewing its deal with the Roosters, which runs until 2018, in the wake of the Pearce incident.
However, a QBE spokesperson said the company would continue to support the Roosters until the investigation was concluded.
"We're pleased the matter has been referred to the NRL's integrity unit and is the subject of a Roosters investigation, and we won't be commenting further while this is underway," the spokesperson said. "The Roosters have our full support."