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Mitchell Pearce credits surprise English player for ‘changing his life’

Mitchell Pearce retired at the end of a glittering career in both the NRL and Super League at the end of last season. He represented Sydney Roosters, Newcastle Knights and Catalans Dragons, playing over 350 career games. He also represented New South Wales 19 times in State of Origin.

However, a high-profile incident on Australia Day in 2016 changed his career. Pearce received an eight-game ban and a $125,000 fine for his role in the scandal. He admitted he had a problem with alcohol and stated his desire to make a change.

Speaking to Fox Sports in a ‘tell-all’ interview about his career, former NRL ‘bad boy’ Pearce revealed the incredible influence Michael McIlorum has had on his life following their time together in the South of France.

“We had a great brotherhood”

Pearce’s move to Les Dracs played a huge role in helping him change his relationship with alcohol.

“It wasn’t until the second year (in the Super League) I made some big changes, I actually stopped drinking and had some really solid friends there,” Pearce said.

He immediately struck up a bond with McIlorum and Tyrone May.

“Michael McIlorum, one of the English greats over there, and Tyrone May who became a really solid friend of mine. We had a good brotherhood there, we spent a lot of time together.

“All three of us, the boys stopped drinking before me, but they were really good influences on me to get off alcohol and really focus on lifestyle.”

Finding a new perspective on life

Credit: Imago Images

Pearce admitted that his move to Perpignan had given him a new perspective on life and helped him to give up drinking.

“It’s why I came back with a different perspective… it’s been a problem throughout my whole career and my life. You don’t really realise until you stop.

“You sort of look back and go oh, I sort of sabotaged a bit there… I would have had more balance in my life if (I gave it up sooner).”

Michael McIlorum made the move to Catalans Dragons in 2018, after starting his career with Wigan Warriors. He has won two Super League titles, three Challenge Cups and represented England and Ireland internationally. Tyrone May also left Catalans at the end of the 2023 season, moving to Hull KR.

All three played an important role in Catalans run to the Super League Grand Final last season. Les Dracs lost out to McIlorum’s old side, Wigan Warriors, in the Old Trafford showpiece. Defeat denied Pearce and fellow retiring legend, Sam Tomkins, a fairytale ending to their careers.

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