Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan hopes premiership carrot will lure Mitchell Pearce to the shire

New colours: Mitchell Pearce (right) has spoken to Cronulla officials about joining the club next season. Picture: John Veage
New colours: Mitchell Pearce (right) has spoken to Cronulla officials about joining the club next season. Picture: John Veage

UPDATE | 

Former Sydney Roosters playmaker Mitchell Pearce has shunned interest from Cronulla and is poised to sign a long-term deal with the Newcastle Knights.

Fairfax Media has reported Pearce has agreed to terms on a four-year deal worth in excess of $4 million with Newcastle after informing the Sharks of his decision on Thursday afternoon.

More to come.

EARLIER STORY | 

Immediately being able to compete for another premiership is the carrot Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan hopes will lure Mitchell Pearce to the shire.

Pearce met with Sharks officials and toured the training facilities at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Wednesday as speculation intensifies about where the NSW State of Origin star will play next season.

The 28-year-old was granted a release from the Sydney Roosters in late November after the Tricolours signed champion Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk.

Cronulla’s main rivals for Pearce’s signature, Newcastle, would be able to offer him more money than the Sharks, reportedly around $1million per season, with Manly also in the mix.

But the Knights, who have won three consecutive NRL wooden spoons and played finals football just once in the last six seasons, would offer a vastly different challenge to that of playing for Cronulla.

With the signings of representative stars Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan to complement a cavalcade of existing stars – Valentine Holmes, Wade Graham, Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis among them – the Sharks will be looking to win a second title in three years in 2018.

It is what Flanagan hopes will see Pearce in the black, white and blue next season.

“There’s all different [options] for him. Does he want to accept a challenge? Maybe he can go to Newcastle and a different type of challenge there. He needs to get them from where they are up to the top. He could probably do that. They can offer him more money than we can,” Flanagan said. 

“Does he go to Manly? They’re probably in a similar position to us a couple of years ago, building. And he can be part of that rebuild.

“Or does he come here and be a genuine title contender. Maybe a chance of winning a competition. That’s the way I look at it. Then there’s the money situation that comes into it as well. He’s going to come here and we’ve got an established roster with a lot of stars in there. The money pit isn’t that deep anymore. We’ve got Moylan, Dugan, Val, Jayden Brailey, Wade, all those players locked up for a long period of time. So our roster is pretty much locked in for the next couple of years. We’ve got some space there [with] some really quality rep players in there which I’m really excited about.”

Flanagan expects to know either way next week but, despite it being a positive meeting with Pearce on Wednesday, was non-committal about whether the hunt for Pearce would be successful. 

“I couldn’t tell you. We showed him around the facility. We showed him our programs and systems, what we do from a strength and conditioning point of view [and] athletic development,” he said. 

“[Physical performance manager] Andrew Gray went through all our high performance programs and he was really impressed with that. To be able to come here and have your own field, your own gym and don’t move it’s a pretty good training facility compared to other places.

“He was pretty impressed with all that but do I know if he’s coming or not? No, I wouldn’t have a clue.”

While Flanagan again confirmed Holmes would get the first shot at retaining his No.1 jersey next season, the potential signing of Pearce would give Cronulla even more options in their outside backs.

“Next year Val gets first crack at being fullback. Matty can play five-eighth. That’s the reason I got him here for initially. He can play fullback also,” he said. 

“Duges can play fullback [and] left and right centre. It just gives me so much flexibility. The thing I do know is all of those players can hopefully gel together and just be really exciting and we can score some points.

“From a whole club perspective I think [Pearce] would add an enormous amount to our club. It could be Chad [Townsend] and Moylan in the halves with Val at fullback but if Mitchell did decide to come to our club obviously then we’d have to look at that.”

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