NRL target ‘wants to win Super League’ as he shrugs off move talk
Two of Super League’s top half-backs have been talked about in the NRL rumour mill this week as clubs struggling at the start of the season look to breathe life in to their line-ups.
Warrington had to bat off reported interest in Man of Steel leader George Williams from Wests Tigers, with Williams directly asked about the speculation live on Sky Sports on Wednesday.
He re-iterated his focus on the task at hand at Warrington, but said he would never write off a return to the NRL despite the turbulent ending he endured to his last spell Down Under with Canberra Raiders.
Having moved on Great Britain international and former Man of Steel Jackson Hastings to Newcastle Knights in the off-season, Wests’ new half-back pair of Luke Brooks and Lebanon international Adam Doueihi isn’t firing at the start of 2023.
MAN OF STEEL: George Williams keeping options open over NRL return
Never saying never about NRL return
With Williams seemingly not an option, Wests’ attention has apparently turned to Catalans half-back Mitchell Pearce.
Pearce, 33, is in his second season in the south of France having racked up more than 300 NRL appearances earlier in his career for Newcastle Knights and Sydney Roosters.
Dragons coach Steve McNamara said the talk didn’t surprise him, but that the club would demand a fee for his services.
McNamara told Sydney Morning Herald: “Mitch is as clear-minded as I’ve seen him. Coming to the south of France has been really good for him. He’s just looking forward to having a really good season with us this year.
“I’m sure NRL clubs are looking at a lot of players over here, but it’s no surprise they’d be looking at Mitch. I’m glad we’ve got him this year.
“We’ve got the option for him next year, but we’ll have those conversations in due course.
“In the past I know it had been floated about Mitch joining the Tigers because of the link through his father.
“And he’s said in the past he would never say never about returning to the NRL.”
The good news for Catalans fans though is that Pearce himself seems to have knocked back talks of a return to his homeland.
Pearce revealed that Wests legend, now assistant to head coach Tim Sheens, Benji Marshall had called him to sound out his interest in a move.
He said: “I don’t really have much to say. Benji called me yesterday and I told him I’m contracted to Catalans.
“We are top of the table and I want to win a comp in Super League. That’s pretty much it.”
Dragons chase Super League title
Pearce has only played once so far this season, in the 32-22 defeat to Leeds last weekend having been recovering from a groin injury.
In his maiden season in Super League, he scored 10 tries in 23 appearances and helped the Dragons to the play-offs, where they suffered a surprise home defeat to Leeds.
Catalans have turned themselves in to genuine Super League title contenders in recent years.
They won the League Leaders’ Shield in 2021, helped by a dramatic win over nearest challengers St Helens at Magic Weekend.
That year, Catalans went on to lose the Grand Final at Old Trafford to St Helens, after which club owner Bernard Guasch got in to trouble with the RFL for his comments about the referee.
Pearce joined Catalans the following off-season as a replacement for another experienced former NRL half-back in James Maloney.
Maloney has remained in France, where he plays for Lezignan in the Elite One Championship.
Catalans are currently fourth favourites with competition sponsor’s Betfred to become Super League champions in 2023.
They are 10/1 to win the Grand Final, with four-time champions St Helens the 7/4 favourites.
Early season pacesetters Warrington are third favourites at 7/2, behind Wigan at 3/1.
The Wolves start of six wins from six has them second favourites to win the League Leaders Shield at 9/4, before St Helens. Catalans are 9/1 to replicate their 2021 result of finishing top of the pile at the end of the regular season.
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