IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Mitchell Pearce’s career is under threat.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Mitchell Pearce’s career is under threat. Chris Hydegetty IMAGES

Tough love needed for disgraced Pearce

I'M not playing Devil's Advocate.

By all reports Mitchell Pearce is a "good bloke".

But he clearly has a serious problem with alcohol, and right now that should be more important than how many games of rugby league he misses as a consequence of his boozy Australia Day exploits that have threatened his career.

Had it been 30, 40 or even 50 years ago, the incident would probably have been covered up.

It's unfortunate a couple of his Roosters teammates, who were also at the party, did not drag him out of the room when he started carrying on like a goose.

Rugby league players from bygone eras got away with worse.

The question is, does that excuse Pearce's drunken antics, which were videoed by a party goer and have grabbed headlines around the world, once again painting rugby league and its players in a poor light?

The answer is an emphatic "no". Society has changed, and is changing for the better. Social media means highly-paid and high-profile people must act responsibly when out in public.

But several former Australian players I contacted believe Pearce's only crime was being "stupid and dumb", not worthy of ending his career.

"Was it really that bad?" a former Queensland and Australian and premiership-winning player told APN.

"It's pretty tame compared to some things players did years ago.

"There is always a massive over-reaction to these things. Let the heat go out of it and then make statements."

Having covered rugby league for four decades, I know of plenty of incidents involving players, officials and even coaches, some of them unsavoury, that never saw the light of day.

That's just how it was back then.

The best thing the Sydney Roosters can do for Mitchell Pearce now is get him to seek help for the drinking problem that was behind this latest indiscretion.

Like a kid whose parents take away his computer or favourite video games, Pearce has to lose the thing he loves more than anything else - playing rugby league for six months or a year if that's how long it takes to straighten him out.

The Roosters and the NRL have to come down hard in the wake of its latest black eye.

Six years ago Canberra Raiders player Joel Monaghan wrecked his career when a photograph of him simulating sex with a dog was posted on the internet.

And in 2014, Cronulla sacked star player Tod Carney and the NRL deregistered him after images of him urinating into his own mouth were posted on social media.

The NRL said then it was fed up with players bringing the game into disrepute and would get tough on the next offender.

Tough love could be just what Pearce needs.