New South Wales Origin star Mitchell Pearce has been lauded this week as he prepares to play his 300th game against the West Tigers on Sunday afternoon.
The former Sydney Rooster turned Newcastle Knight halfback has been described as the ultimate professional by coach Adam O’Brien
“From right when we got back from after Christmas, he has been head down bum up,” O’Brien said at his press conference on Monday.
“He trains the same way he did when he was a 17-year-old I’d imagine; I wasn’t with him when he was 17, but I have always admired the physical condition that he always kept himself in and how hard he competes.”
According to O’Brien the 31-year-old is still executing to a high level on game day.
“He is really clear out the field,” he said.
“We had a plan on the weekend to use the kicking game to nullify there back three and I thought he did that to a tee, he stuck to the script the whole game and that was what I was really pleased with.”
It isn’t just his 299 games of experience on the field that is important to the young Knights outfit, he is also pivotal at training and in meetings as he guides the next generation of Knights superstars.
“He is a great example of what it takes to play 299 games,” O’Brien said.
“You have to be physically in great condition and that’s what Junior does, he trains exceptionally hard and it’s a good visual for the young blokes about if you want to be consistent and play at an elite level that’s how you need to prepare.”
Pearce has earnt immense respect from the playing group throughout his time at the Knights.
Teammate David Klemmer highlighted the importance of playing well in milestone games and ensuring they can be memorable moments in the future.
“As a club, and the people that get to put the jersey on that weekend we want to make that memorable for them and make sure we win those games,” he said at his press conference on Wednesday.
“Not many people get to play 300, so if we are going to be a part of that we want to put in a performance that will make Junior proud as well.”
Pearce isn’t slowing down yet, and his professionalism and great physical fitness will see him continue for a few years yet.
“I’m not one to put a stop on it,” O’Brien said.
“If you want to play well into your well into your 30s the physical fitness is number one for me.
“While his body is good and he keeps himself in such good nick, and he is competing the way he competed on the weekend there is no ceiling for him.”
When the time eventually comes for the end of Pearce’s decorated career, it will be left up to him.
“It will be his decision, and I’d imagine it would come down to a mental thing for him,” O’Brien said.
“I can’t see the post at the moment.”