"You can't wake a person who's pretending to be asleep", is an American Indian saying that NRL welfare and education manager Nigel Vagana is fond of quoting.
Vagana referred Fairfax Media to the ancient Navajo proverb after the highly intoxicated Mitchell Pearce last week disgraced himself on video for the second time in as many years.
Pearce has attended at least one NRL workshop organised by Vagana at which he and his Sydney Roosters teammates were advised on how to avoid an incident almost identical to the one that has left his immediate playing future in doubt.
The 26-year-old, who is receiving treatment in an overseas rehabilitation facility for alcohol problems, is expected to be stripped of the Roosters' captaincy, fined $50,000 and hit with a lengthy suspension after being filmed making an unwanted advance to a woman and simulating a sexual act with a dog while in a drunken state at a party on Australia Day.
Roosters players had been on a harbour cruise before going to the Royal Oak Hotel in Double Bay where a club official issued them with taxi dockets to get them home but Pearce and recruits Dale Copley and Jayden Nikorima decided to share a taxi to the party hosted by people they had met at the pub.
Some believe Pearce was taken advantage of by the person who filmed the NSW Origin five-eighth's drunken reactions to comments about teammates, race and sexual orientation.
It was also alleged in the footage, which was filmed at about 1am and sold to media outlets just hours later through digital media exchange company Diimex, that he had urinated on a sofa before being asked to leave.
The scenario is similar to one NRL players are warned about during a theatre sports program that has been undertaken numerous times by clubs during the past five seasons.
Fairfax Media has attended one of the workshops, which feature actors who create a series of confronting and high-risk situations to which the players have to react.
The scenarios are based on real incidents that have involved NRL players, some of which may not have been reported publicly.
Among them is one in which players who have been on a team bonding session are given taxi dockets and told to go home by a club official but some go to another pub instead, where a heavily intoxicated star is approached by male and female patrons offering him drinks, drugs or sex and wanting to take photos of him on their mobile phones.
Because of his drunken state, the player is unaware or unconcerned about the vulnerable position he has placed himself in and it is up to his teammates to help him avoid doing something he may later regret, or being photographed or filmed in what may be portrayed as a compromising act.
In Pearce's case last week, he was with two newcomers to Sydney and the Roosters – including a rookie in Nikorima – and he is the club's captain so it would have been difficult for them to intervene, but Vagana said all NRL players were told why they needed to avoid placing themselves in such a situation.
"It sounds like the club gave the group direct orders to finish up and even cab charges to get home safely," Vagana said. "When guys make decisions away from this, they're ultimately responsible for their own actions.
"In the theatre sports scenes we run, players always identify this is where extreme, high-risk situations come up and they need to be aware that, if you choose this path, you need to be ready for anything."
Asked if Pearce would have attended a theatre sports workshop, Vagana said: "Yep. Every club has been done several times over the last five years."
It was the second time footage of Pearce disgracing himself while in a drunken state had been made public after he was ejected from a Kings Cross nightclub by police two years ago.
While he was merely issued a $500 on-the-spot fine, Pearce would be aware of the damage such incidents caused after another workshop in which he played a fictitious player charged with indecent assault in a simulated court hearing and other Roosters players played NRL officials, club management, coaching staff, teammates, his family, sponsors, fans and the media.
The purpose of the workshop, run by Mock Court International, was to make the Roosters players aware of the increased scrutiny they faced due to their profiles and the consequences of their actions if they misbehaved.