Cronulla Sharks co-captain Wade Graham believes ex team-mate Mitchell Pearce should continue his career in France following speculation linking him with a return to Australia for 2024.
Pearce, 34, remains without a deal for next season, with current club Catalans sitting at the top of the Super League table with 11 wins from 15.
However, the veteran half-back has been linked with a return to Sydney Roosters from the Dragons to finish his career.
The Sydney-born player made his NRL debut with the Roosters back in 2007, and went on to make 238 appearances for the club across 11 seasons before he was later stripped from his co-captaincy following an infamous drunken incident.
He then joined Newcastle Knights for 2018 following Cooper Cronk’s arrival from Melbourne Storm, later moving to Perpignan on a two-year deal ahead of the 2022 Super League campaign.
Pearce has already shut down rumours for an NRL return earlier this year, with reports linking the playmaker with an immediate move to Wests Tigers in the hopes of reviving their poor start to the season.
Mitchell Pearce shuts down previous NRL links
“The Tigers thing came out of the blue and it got a fair bit of media back home,” Pearce previously told Jenna Brooks on Sky Sports.
“They did reach out. But I’m signed here in France, and that’s where my heart is at the moment.
“I don’t know next year. It’s up to the club as well, part of the way the contract is. My focus is purely on giving my all and going after the premiership this year and we’ll see what happens.
“I don’t know too much about next year. If those opportunities came up, I’ve got to look into it. But I’m also really happy here as well.
“I’m enjoying the journey and loving being around the boys here. It’s a great club and the south of France is an amazing spot.”
Mitchell Pearce should ‘stay in France’ says former team-mate
Speaking on World Wide of Sports, ex New South Wales team-mate Graham was left shocked at the speculation that Pearce was considering a return to the NRL.
Graham, 32, represented New South Wales from 2016 to 2019, while Pearce made 19 appearances from 2008 to 2019, winning his first-ever series in the final year after being recalled into the side for the decider to replace the injured Nathan Cleary.
The reports follow Luke Brooks’ unconfirmed future, with the Wests Tigers star reportedly turning down a recent deal to test his worth on the open market for 2024 and beyond.
“There’s certainly been some chatter about it,” Graham confirmed on Pearce’s speculated return.
“We spoke about Luke Brooks before and getting out of the NRL bubble, he’s dedicated such a long period of his life to it. I feel like Mitch is in the same sort of boat and was on the back end of his career over here.
“He went over to France and he seems to be enjoying his life and loving his life.
“Catalans are playing well, they’re top of the table, so there’s an opportunity there to have some success and chase some silverware.
“I can’t believe he’s considering it!”
“As a friend of Mitchell’s, he seems to be happy and he seems to be enjoying his life. I’d say stay in France!
“I had a conversation with him last year when I was off-contract, as I publicly said I’m keen to go over in France at some stage in my career because my partner’s French background.
“And he was loving life and he was telling me how much he enjoys the club, living over there and the experience.
“You’re out of that pressure bubble of the NRL that you live in.
“It was a shock to me when it actually came out that he’s considering it.”
Rugby league great Phil Gould also said he would be “stunned” to see Pearce return to the NRL, while New South Wales legend Paul Gallen added: “I can’t believe he’s considering it!
“He’s a good guy, I’ve played lots of footy with him.
“He will be living the dream over there. To come back here and be a half-back, we just spoke about Luke Brooks and how much they scrutinise everything they do!”