JOHNATHAN Thurston reckons Mitchell Pearce is giving up a priceless opportunity to learn how to be a "big game player" from Cooper Cronk by quitting the Sydney Roosters.
Thurston admitted the Roosters' decision to sign Cronk for two NRL seasons was "harsh" on Pearce, but said the 28-year-old was forgoing a golden chance to complete his skill set.
Asked if he felt for Pearce, his long-time State of Origin adversary, Thurston said: "Yes and no.
"Being the chief playmaker there for the amount of time that he has been, it's a little bit harsh.
"But then again, he's only 28 years of age. I think he could learn a lot off Cooper from the two years that Cooper is there.
"He could win another two or three premierships after Cooper's gone or even while Cooper's there."
Thurston famously sledged Pearce after Origin III in 2015, telling him the closest he'd ever get to the shield would be by standing next to Wally Lewis's statue outside Suncorp Stadium.
"Cooper's a big game player, knows how to get the job done," he said. "I think that's what Mitch has probably lacked over his career - how to close out big games.
"He could have learned a lot off Cooper but he thinks he's best elsewhere."
Meanwhile, Roosters captain Boyd Cordner said he respects Pearce's decision to leave.
"I thought that he might've stayed," Cordner said.
'But it wasn't to be and I can understand and respect his decision.
"Although it's sad to see Pearcey go, we're super happy to have Cooper Cronk coming to the Roosters."
Cordner said he had also spoken to a number of his Roosters teammates to ensure there was no ill-feeling over the exit of a player who had worn the No. 7 jumper for 11 years.
"I've been speaking to a couple of the boys and, although they are sad as well, they understand the situation and understand what's going on," he said.
Cordner has also moved to assure new clubmate Cronk that he is not to blame for Pearce's exit.
Cordner reached out to Cronk in Kangaroos camp and admitted the former Storm No. 7 felt awkward about Pearce's departure.
"It's only natural for him to feel like that, coming to a new club and this happened. But I just reassured him that we're so happy that he's coming to the Roosters," Cordner said.