‘Traumatic’: Footy star speaks after texting scandal
Mitchell Pearce has broken his silence on the texting scandal which resulted in his wedding being called off and his decision to quit as Newcastle skipper.
Pearce spoke publicly for the first time on Thursday after standing down as Knights captain earlier in the week.
His planned wedding to Kristin Scott was called off just before Christmas following revelations Pearce had exchanged flirty texts with a female Knights employee.
"For me, it's been a traumatic few weeks for my personal life and for those I love," Pearce said.
"Unfortunately, my actions have impacted the team and more importantly the people I have closest to me - Kristin and my family.
"I'm taking steps now to address these issues and I feel it would be in the best interest of the club to step down as captain for this season.
"I love this club and I love my family and I'm committed to working as hard as I can to be the best man I can be, both on and off the field.
"I'd appreciate some respect moving forward and a bit of time to get back to training."
Pearce did not answer questions from the assembled media.
Coach Adam O'Brien confirmed the club's leadership had been under review but said he'd had no discussions with Pearce regarding the captaincy before the veteran halfback's resignation.
"Mitchell addressed both Phil (Gardner, Knights CEO) and myself of that decision on Tuesday morning. We hadn't had any conversations with him prior to that," O'Brien said.
"Mitch came to it himself and I support him in it.
"We've had some productive conversations earlier this week but I'm confident this won't have an impact on our season.
"It won't be used as motivation and it won't be used as an excuse, we'll get on with it as professionals."
Pearce had earlier told club officials he was stepping away from the captaincy to try to salvage his relationship with his fiancee Kristin Scott.
Their Byron Bay wedding, with a guest list of 150, was called off on Christmas Eve after it was revealed Pearce had exchanged racy text messages with the club employee.
The guest list included many of the NRL's biggest names, who were told Sydney's coronavirus outbreak was the reason behind the cancellation.
The Daily Telegraph broke the story on Wednesday afternoon and shortly after, the Knights published a statement on the club's website confirming Pearce's decision.
"Mitchell Pearce will step down as captain of the Newcastle Knights, effective immediately," the statement read.
"Earlier this week, Pearce met with head coach Adam O'Brien, CEO Philip Gardner and general manager of football Danny Buderus, to address recent events and to apologise for the distraction and inconvenience they have caused during the Christmas leave period.
"Immediately following this meeting, Pearce met with his teammates and football department staff, to advise the group of his decision to relinquish the captaincy."
The club hinted that the captaincy had become an on and off-field burden for Pearce, a veteran of 297 NRL games.
"Pearce's decision followed a lengthy review of current issues, last season's performance and reflection upon the added pressure the captaincy brings to both his on field performance and personal life," the statement said.
"The club is fully supportive of his decision.
"The Knights will continue work to develop a new club leadership model, with a decision on new club leaders - including who will ultimately perform the role of captain - yet to be made.
The Newcastle Knights are committed to respecting the privacy of their employees, including any discussion of private matters in the public domain. At the conclusion of (Thursday's) media opportunity, no further comment will be made on this matter."
Buderus told media on Monday that Pearce's actions were "not acceptable" and hinted that the embattled playmaker could be stripped of his captaincy.
"It's not acceptable, there's no doubt about that," Buderus said.
"It's something we're all striving for … culture. Culture for us is very important; what we stand for is highly important and we need those players to adhere to that."
It's been a tumultuous few weeks for Pearce. He and Ms Scott spent Christmas Day separately with their families after the text message scandal came to light.
Pearce's fiancee has seen the text messages, as has the woman's distraught partner, which sources say date back a number of months and had the potential to split the playing group.
Pearce and Ms Scott recently opened a fitness business in Newcastle and have often spoken about the excitement of getting married and starting a family.
They were engaged in April when Pearce spent $40,000 on a stunning engagement ring.
Ms Scott broke the news on social media: "Life has just fallen into place," she wrote.
Originally published as 'Traumatic few weeks': Pearce breaks silence