Knights coach Adam O'Brien says he is "proud" of the way Mitchell Pearce has always fronted up and owned his mistakes and has backed his embattled former skipper to silence his critics and deliver on the field this season.
No NRL player has faced more scrutiny or been in the public eye more than Pearce during the off-season with the veteran playmaker relinquishing captaincy of the Knights after being involved in a text message scandal over Christmas that resulted in his wedding being called off just days before the event.
While he did not condone Pearce's off-field conduct in a wide-ranging Q and A interview to be published in Saturday's Toohey's News column in the Newcastle Herald, O'Brien has nothing but praise for the former captain's actions following the controversy.
And with Pearce on the verge of signing a new one-year-deal with the Knights for 2022, O'Brien said there is nothing to suggest the club won't commit to a further contract extension for the playmaker down the track if his form warrants it.
"I'm a big supporter - I want him here and I want to give him the best possible opportunity to play good footy for us this season because at his best, he is great for the team," O'Brien said.
The coach is firmly of the belief Pearce faces more scrutiny and is treated more harshly by mainstream and social media than a lot of other players when he "stuffs up".
"Comparing what Mitchell cops for what he has done to what others have copped - it's chalk and cheese," O'Brien said. "He has always been smashed for what he has done but you know what, the thing I would say about Junior [Pearce] is I have never seen him make excuses.
"Anything he has done, he has owned it. He hasn't shifted blame and that is a really strong trait of his.
"He's not sly about anything at all and I am proud of him because he never runs away from it.
"When he makes a mistake, he stands in front of it. He fronts the media straight away and owns his mistakes.
"That's what you want in a leader. They are not always going to get it right - they are human beings - but as long as they are standing up when they need to be, that's what you want from them."
Asked about the club's decision to offer Pearce only a one-year contract extension, O'Brien said: "I think it's the right thing to do for both parties in the current climate.
"If you offer a multi-year deal, because of who he is, everyone is going to put it back on the club by saying he's never going to learn and they've given him a three-year deal. He is on a hiding to nothing if we did that.
"That doesn't mean we are not going to review his contract at some stage this year or next and there is nothing to say we won't extend him further if he is playing good footy.
"From his point of view right now, he doesn't need to worry about that.
"He knows he's got security this year to be able to get on the field and play well and the rest of that stuff takes care of itself."
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