Mini backs Pearce for NRL milestone
Anthony Minichiello has only held the Roosters' club appearance record for a few hours but he's already anointed Mitch Pearce as the man to go past not only his 302 games in the red, white and blue, but also Darren Lockyer's 355 NRL games.
Minichiello's 15-year career and the Tri-colours 2014 campaign came to a disappointing end in their 32-22 defeat to arch-rivals Souths on Friday night, but his final game also took him past good mate Luke Ricketson as the most-capped player for the foundation club.
Pearce, who debuted for the Roosters as a 17-year-old, already has eight years of first grade and 181 matches under his belt despite only just turning 25 this year.
The Chooks' No. 7 has gone to another level over the past two months of the season, and Minichiello says the professional approach Pearce has adopted this year stands him in good stead to haul in the Roosters club record.
"If he doesn't get injured, he'll get the record without a doubt," Minichiello says.
"He'll get it. He's a Rooster for life as well so he'll be chasing it down. This back end of the year he's definitely come of age as a player. He's been just the ultimate professional on and off the field and it's shown with his game."
Pearce has averaged 23 games a year thus far over his career, and if he continues at that rate will crack the 300 club by the time he turns 31.
Should he play on to the same age as Minichiello, who bows out at 34, and avoids the serious injuries that cost the veteran fullback over 60 games during the late 2000s, he could also reel in Darren Lockyer's NRL record of 355 games with Brisbane.
"He can get both," Minichiello says.
"He's pretty well put together Pearcey, he doesn't get too many injuries and if he looks after himself he'll be chasing Lockyer's record as well."
Like his retiring skipper, Pearce is on track to go down as one of the club's greats. He's current deal ties him to the Roosters until the end of 2017, and the 25-year-old credits the example set by Minichiello, one the game's most meticulous trainers, when it comes to maintaining his health.
"Guys like Mini and Sonny (Bill Williams) have had a big impact on that," says Pearce, who also count see himself playing anywhere else at the moment.
"I've learnt heaps. When I was a kid I was pretty rat's arse to be honest; just playing footy and eating whatever. But the last few years I've put a lot of focus on my diet and being really professional.
"I've been lucky, I'm pretty durable. I haven't had too many injuries so touch wood for that... It's a goal of mine to be a long serving player for the Roosters but I don't count my games or anything like that."
For Minichiello's part despite the disappointing end to his career he says he's completely at peace with his decision to hang up the boots. He confirmed he has been approached to play at next year's Auckland Nine's tournament, but will make a decision on whether he returns ala Brad Fittler and Steve Menzies at last year's tournament over the off-season.
"It's been pretty surreal, but I'm pretty happy with my decision," he says.
"Obviously I'll miss the boys but I'll be in and around the club so hopefully I'll get my fix there.
"It will probably sink in when they go back to pre-season training at the end of November and I'm putting on a suit and going upstairs.
"Todd Greenberg's asked me to come play the Nines but I don't know. I'll chill over the off season and see what happens.
It's not even in my thought pattern at the moment, but you never say never."