"At this point in time I am probably the worst role model in sport".
Mitchell Pearce: will 'cop whatever comes'
Speaking at Sydney Airport after a month-long stay in an overseas alcohol rehab centre, Pearce says he is keen to get back to football. (Vision courtesy ABC News 24)
Mitchell Pearce is speaking honestly and candidly 24 hours after his return from a rehabilitation centre in Thailand about the impact his drunken behaviour has had on the game, his club and the people he cares about.
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson and the teammates he faced for the first time on Monday since the fallout from their now infamous Australia Day harbour cruise have had their season disrupted and Pearce acknowledged the difficult position he had placed his father Wayne in, as a member of the ARL Commission.
"It is horrible for dad, he has always supported me and it is hard for him. I am putting him under pressure a lot," Pearce said. "That is something I have come back a lot clearer about. There has never been any intentional disrespect, but I didn't think about that. I was just totally selfish. I need to take responsibility, which is something I have always shied away from."
In a 45-minute interview on Monday morning, the 26-year-old NSW representative recounted the events of the night in which he was filmed simulating sex with a dog, revealed his life had been in a downward spiral for six months and insisted he held no ill-feelings against the person who took the footage and later sold it to media outlets.
"Hopefully this could be the best thing that has happened because if he didn't do that I would still be drinking and the season would have just kept getting worse," Pearce said.
Cry for help
Pearce spent four weeks in Thailand having treatment for alcohol-related problems but said: "Am I an alcoholic? No I don't think I am but I have got an addictive personality. I have always been obsessive. I have got a bit of an OCD personality. I haven't been myself for probably six months and I felt like I needed something," Pearce said. "I have just felt like I was a bit off and was just getting some bad habits. There were some personal things I needed to work on and I feel like I have come back a lot clearer.
"That tells me it happened for a reason. The things I was doing when I was drinking was not me and acting like that means you are crying out for something."
Pearce and new Roosters players Dale Copley and Jayden Nikorima went to a party with some people they had met at the Royal Oak hotel in Double Bay after the harbour cruise. Pearce denied allegations in a Facebook post that Roosters players had been using "liney lineys" and said he had been unaware he was being filmed.
Origin debut: Mitchell Pearce jokes with his famous father Wayne after being selected to represent NSW for the first time in 2008. Photo: Craig Golding
"I was captain of the club and I should have gone home but I have just had this issue when I drink that I don't know when to stop, which has got me into some trouble," he said. "I am not a disrespectful person but my actions, the more intoxicated I got were definitely disrespectful and totally unacceptable. I don't know what led to me doing something so stupid but I would say alcohol was the main reason – there is no doubt about that. It was just immaturity and alcohol."
I am not an alcoholic but I am a binge drinker and alcohol has just caused me a lot of embarrassment.Mitchell Pearce
Pearce was sleeping off a hangover when Robinson phoned to tell him A Current Affair had footage of his behaviour. The news left him "sick in the stomach". He phoned his mother, Terri, and as he recounted the conversation Pearce became emotional.
"I felt sick in the stomach," Pearce said. "I called mum, I speak to mum usually all the time first and she is always supportive but ... to see my mum have to handle that sort of stuff is pretty bad. I was the captain at the club ... that is what Robbo and the coaches were most disappointed about. It was the first time someone has said 'no that's it, you have got to go and get help, do something about it instead of sweeping it under the carpet or working ways around it'. Mum and dad were pretty straight about that too."
Pearce paid $30,000 for addiction treatment at The Cabin in Chiang Mai with people from around the world, many of them heroin addicts, who had no idea who he was. "You hit rock bottom if you are in there and I got myself in a position where I was at rock bottom," he said. "There are people from all walks of life and it is basically a lot of self-assessment, and just taking ownership of the position you are in. You are in an enclosed area the whole time – they were nice cabins in Thailand but it was like being in school. There were constant meetings and a lot of therapy stuff and getting back to why you do things.
The Cabin: The drug rehabilitation and alcohol addiction treatment centre in Thailand where Pearce stayed.
"I learned a lot about myself and I came back really fresh but I have also walked back into what I left. There was a lot of humiliation for myself, for my family, for my club and I felt a little bit scared yesterday when I got off the plane."
Pearce knows he needs to earn back the trust of teammates and has placed himself on an indefinite booze ban, while the Roosters board and NRL will decide when he can resume playing. "To say at 26 I am never going to have a beer again is, I think, ridiculous but at this present moment it is not even on my mind and I am back at the club to firstly get my life on track and in balance and then come back and play good footy, which is what I am paid to do," he said. "It is always going to be a challenge because, like I said, I am not an alcoholic but I am a binge drinker and alcohol has just caused me a lot of embarrassment. People are probably going to be waiting for something else but it is up to me now. It is my life at the end of the day and I have got to do it for myself and for the people I care about it."