Newcastle Knights coach Adam O’Brien insists skipper Mitchell Pearce’s latest indiscretion has not divided the NRL outfit’s playing group.
In fact, he feels it’s been “galvanised” by the incident.
The experienced campaigner stepped down as captain on Wednesday 6 January, effective immediately, after messages to a female club employee were revealed late last year.
The Knights’ pair addressed the media this morning (Thursday 7 January), with Pearce admitting he was “taking steps to address the issues” that led to his resignation.
He read from a prepared statement and did not take questions from awaiting journalists.
Earlier this week, the former State of Origin star met with O’Brien, Knights CEO Philip Gardner and general manager of football Danny Buderus to address recent events.
The 31-year-old also apologised for the distraction and inconvenience it had caused during the Christmas leave period.
Immediately afterwards, an emotional Pearce faced his teammates and football department staff to advise the group of his decision to relinquish the captaincy.
“If anything, it served as probably galvanising them [the group] a little bit,” O’Brien said.
“They understand that the team is like a family.
“As well, they understand that family members make mistakes.
“We’re a good family.
“However, you don’t turn your back on family members, you support them.
“That’s what the team spoke about.
“There was genuine remorse in that meeting and I think the players could see that clearly that there was a guy standing up there that was genuinely owning a mistake.
“It’s a big mistake that’s hurt some people.
“That fact was clear was to the playing group.
“I think that’s what galvanised the group.
“They realised they need to get around a family member.”
Pearce’s decision followed a lengthy review of current issues, last season’s performance and reflection upon the added pressure the captaincy brings to both his on-field performance and personal life.
A club spokesperson said the Knights were fully-supportive of the playmaker’s call to resign.
“We’ll continue work to develop a new club leadership model, with a decision on new club leaders – including who will ultimately perform the role of captain – yet to be made,” they stated.
“The Newcastle Knights are committed to respecting the privacy of their employees, including any discussion of private matters in the public domain.
“No further comment will be made on this matter.”
The Knights’ NRL squad members returned to full-time training this week.