Roosters push to keep Pearce part of flock
One-club man … Anthony Minichiello will be playing in the red, white and blue of Sydney for at least another year after signing a contract extension. Photo: Getty Images
HAVING guaranteed Anthony Minichiello will remain a one-club man with a one-year contract extension, the Roosters will now turn their attention to ensuring Mitchell Pearce follows the same footsteps.
Pearce, who is off contract at the end of next season, is expected to be one of the most sought after players in the NRL when he goes on the market on November 1.
The Roosters have signed the bulk of their squad and Pearce looms as the final piece of the puzzle, with chief executive Steve Noyce signalling his intention to keep the NSW Origin halfback at Bondi for many more years.
''Mitchell is obviously like Mini (Minichiello), he joined the club when he was 16,'' Noyce said. ''Our thoughts are that Mitchell will be another player who proudly plays in the red, white and blue for a long time. Right now he's concentrating on playing good footy for the Roosters with one eye on Origin, that's all he needs to be worried about at the moment.''
There's a suggestion that St George Illawarra are keen to lure Pearce to the Dragons in 2014, earmarking the 23-year-old as a long-term replacement for captain Ben Hornby, who is tipped to retire when his contract expires at the end of next year.
While the Dragons can't officially begin negotiations until November 1, it's unlikely the Roosters will have the luxury of snapping up the halfback before the door opens to rival clubs.
The salary cap will increase by $700,000 to $5 million next season but there's still plenty of uncertainty in regards to what the cap will rise to in the years to follow, which will dictate the kind of money Pearce can demand.
His manager, Mike Newton, is in no rush to settle the playmaker's future, keen to wait until there is a better understanding of what the salary cap will be to secure the best deal for his client.
''We don't know what the cap is going to be in years 2014, '15, '16 or '17,'' he said. ''We don't know how the CBA [collective bargaining agreement] is going to be structured. Mitch loves the place but I wouldn't be looking at chatting with the Roosters until there is a full understanding of the new framework we have to work within. It won't be until next year.
''This is going to be a landmark media deal. You'd be pretty foolish to do something now unless you had to, like I did with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who was off contract this year. There's no urgency to do anything at the moment from our end with Mitch.''
Coach Brian Smith also has one more year remaining on his contract with the Roosters.
NSW coach Ricky Stuart and his predecessor, Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy, have both been spoken about as a possible replacement in 2014, but Noyce said the club was hopeful Smith would be around to reap the benefits of an investment in the club's youth, most of whom have recently extended their contracts.
''The vast majority of players we've tied up over the last 18 months - Jared [Waerea-Hargreaves], Skiddy [Shaun Kenny-Dowall], Friendy [Jake Friend], BJ Leilua, Lama Tasi,'' Noyce said.
''Then there's the younger guys like Tautau Moga, Brandon Tago and Kane Evans, who played in the 20s Origin game, so there's a fair bit of stability in the club.
''Brian shares our excitement of the roster we're putting together and the development of these young players. I think that's Brian's great strength, working with these young men and bringing them through.
''He's working with us with those plans for the longer term. I'm sure in the short term he just wants to win more games. If we do those sort of things, the rest will take care of itself,'' Noyce said.