Connect with us

Super League

“The refs are borderline cheats” – Mitchell Pearce claims big-team bias as he reveals differences between NRL and Super League

Former NRL player Mitchell Pearce at Catalans Dragons

Mitchell Pearce called time on his illustrious career at Old Trafford in October with Catalans Dragons failing to lift the Grand Final trophy and now the Aussie playmaker has reflected on what separates Super League from the NRL.

Pearce was one of several Catalans players donning the strip for the final time with fellow icon Sam Tomkins also retiring and the likes of Matt Whitley, Adam Keighran and Tiaki Chan among others leaving the club at the end of the season.

There was no fairytale ending but Pearce was an NRL winner back in his time with Sydney Roosters where he spent much of his impressive 309-game NRL career, repping the Roosters on 238 occasions.

Such experience is why he was brought to Catalans by Steve McNamara with the Dragons running at a 66% win rate with Pearce in the side and he’s now spoken on the major differences between the game down under and here in Super League.

Pearce appeared as a guest on the Matty Johns Podcast, hosted by the former Wigan man alongside fellow legend Cooper Cronk, and Pearce revealed why it was time to hang up the boots.

“I had an opportunity to play after last year when I finished, we made the Grand Final and I was playing decent footy,” he explained.

“I know in Super League that the speed of the game is a lot slower, but I was still playing decent footy and the club were pushing for me to stay there and I had a few opportunities but just in my heart, I was ready for something new.

“If I had a committed I reckon I still could have played okay footy I reckon. I would have been slower and I just watch the game now and how quick and big everyone is I just don’t know if I’d keep up.”

What level is Super League?

Super League

Credit: Imago Images

Whilst Pearce claimed he would have still gone well should he continued to play in 2024, there was almost a chance he did play on with reports emerging of late that Parramatta Eels approached him to fill in with Mitchell Moses out for 12 weeks.

Pearce recalled the conversation: “I just expressed that I was retired, I’d had six months off and was transitioning into the next phase of my life but I appreciated the respect obviously. It was an easy no. I was just a bit taken aback.”

He also explained how much easier Super League is to play than the NRL but asserts that there is a period of adaption because the game is so different.

“There’s big differences over there. The style of footy is different so you have got to adapt,” Pearce explained.

“The quality of players across the board around you isn’t the same. Obviously, you might be playing in a team with a pack that’s not as good, so as a half, it’s more difficult.

“They encourage a lot more footy over there, so it’s a more open style. That fear of just getting to your kick isn’t as prevalent over there. But once you adapt to it, it’s just not the same pressure, you’re not getting the same defence pressure week in and week out. So there’s a big difference.”

He then referenced how ruck speed affects games and suggested that there is a bias towards teams in how it is policed: “Over there in some games, you can have a bit of a field day but the speed of the ruck is a lot slower. You play Wigan and St Helens and the refs are borderline cheats sometimes over there. It’s a bit hard to get any ruck speed.

“I was in a good side, so if you’re in a good team over there, it makes your footy a lot easier.”

Is Super League at risk of becoming a feeder league for the NRL?

Super League

It was also noted by Australian legend Cooper Cronk that a number of halves that have struggled down under have made the switch to England and took to Super League with ease with Brad Schneider and Jake Clifford being prime examples in 2023.

Cronk referenced Man of Steel winners Brodie Croft and Jackson Hastings as well as former teammate Blake Green who impressed at both Hull KR and Wigan Warriors.

The 2016 Golden Boot winner said: “I played with Blake Green after he stinted with Wigan and then came back to Melbourne Storm. He’s a good example along with those other guys I named (Brodie Croft and Jackson Hastings) that if there is less pressure in the Super League, then go there and find your freedom, go and find your ability to get back to what makes you a good ballplayer. Find it at that level and then if you feel confident, come back. Jack Cogger is another example.”

It was suggested after the World Club Challenge that Bevan French should return to the NRL after his incredible Man of the Match display in that game, French signed as a winger but took to the role of half-back with ease during the 2023 season.

He is another example of a player not quite cracking it at a young age in Australia but finding success in Super League, although thankfully he’s set to stay in Super League for the foreseeable having signed a new contract this week.

With a significant number of halves learning their trade in England before returning to the NRL and the recent exodus of young English stars such as Morgan Smithies, Kai Pearce-Paul and Will Pryce to the NRL, then maybe Super League is losing its identity and simply becoming a feeder competition?



  1. Eric T Cat

    April 8, 2024 at 12:05 am

    The comments about refereeing are perhaps worth further investigation, if you analyse the performance of certain teams being refereed by certain referees then it appears there may be distinct pattern. Some teams seem almost guaranteed to lose if a particular referee is in in charge. But, are the numbers statistically significant? I suspect not, because if they were the betting companies would be the first to speak out, they keep a vigilant eye out for such anomalies. The likelihood is that it’s you remember particular events in a game and you draw an inference. But, the data is out there, do the calculations yourself, see what you can spot.

  2. Eric Johnson

    April 8, 2024 at 11:38 am

    Pearce is on about ruck speed, Catalans slow it down as much as Wigan, if not more , it took 40 years to speed the game up, ( super league ) then teams continually slow it down by lying on in the tackle. It should be penalised, the same with the offside rule. Christian Wolfe got saints fit and playing fast open rugby, ( like the NRL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Must See

More in Super League