Wayne Pearce

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Wayne Pearce
Personal information
Full name Wayne John Pearce
Nickname Junior
Born (1960-03-29) 29 March 1960 (age 55)
Balmain, New South Wales, Australia
Playing information
Height 180 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Weight 89 kg (14 st 0 lb)
Position Lock, Second-row
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1980–90 Balmain Tigers 193 33 0 0 123
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1983–88 New South Wales 16 3 0 0 12
1982–88 Australia 19 6 0 0 21
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1994–99 Balmain Tigers 158 55 1 101 35
2000 Wests Tigers 26 11 2 13 42
Total 184 66 3 114 36
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1999–01 New South Wales 9 5 1 3 56

Wayne John Pearce OAM (born 29 March 1960 in Balmain, New South Wales) is an Australian former rugby league footballer and coach. An athletic lock forward for the Balmain Tigers, he was affectionately known as 'Junior'. Pearce represented New South Wales in the State of Origin Series as well as the Australian national rugby league team.

Pearce was captain of the Balmain Tigers rugby league club from 1982–1990. A local junior from the Balmain Police Boys club, he made his debut in 1980 and was quickly marked as a future star.

Pearce's son, Mitchell is a half-back for the Sydney Roosters.

Representative career[edit]

Not heavily framed for a league forward at only 89 kg, Pearce nonetheless became so good at lock forward with Balmain by the time of the 1982 Kangaroo tour that he was an automatic selection even with Parramatta's dual international Ray Price having a monopoly on the Test lock position.[citation needed] On the tour, Pearce was moved into the second row to accommodate Price, but symbolically took over the lock position after Price retired from international rugby league in 1984, though he often faced strong opposition from Queenslanders Paul Vautin and Bob Lindner for the position. Pearce was awarded the only official performance accolade of the tour when he was voted "players player" of the 1982 Kangaroo Touring Party.[citation needed]

Pearce continued to excel at Representative level and in 1984 he won the Harry Sunderland Medal as Player of The Ashes series against the touring Great Britain side.

In 1986, Pearce led New South Wales to their first ever 3-0 Origin series win over Queensland.

Pearce was a shock omission from the Australian team for the first test of the 1988 Ashes series against Great Britain at the Sydney Football Stadium as selectors opted for an all-Queensland back row of Wally Fullerton-Smith and Paul Vautin (second-row) and Bob Lindner (lock). This test was the 100th played between the two teams and saw Australia win 17-6. Pearce forced his way back into the side for the final two tests (also won by Australia), replacing Lindner (who was moved to the bench) at lock. Following The Ashes defence, Pearce then played in Australia's first ever test against Papua New Guinea on home soil in Wagga Wagga. Following the 1988 NSWRL season, Pearce then played in Australia's 25-12 win over New Zealand in the World Cup Final in front of 47,363 at Eden Park in Auckland.

After 19 tests for Australia, 15 State of Origin games for New South Wales (10 as captain), 4 games for City Firsts and 2 games for City Origin, Wayne Pearce retired from representative football after the 1988 World Cup Final.


Pearce's captaincy proved critical in elevating Balmain from also-rans to a force of the 1980s, in concert with Steve Roach, Benny Elias and later Paul Sironen. Along with fullback Garry Jack, they drove Balmain to the semi-finals in 1983 and every year from 1985 to Pearce's retirement. Pearce won the Rothman's Medal for the best-and-fairest player in 1985, but missed out on the Kangaroo tour the following year after controversially failing a fitness test (he felt himself fit enough to tour).[citation needed]

In 1986 Pearce captained the New South Wales Blues to their first ever State of Origin clean-sweep, but in the following two years there was to be a rapid decline, with Queensland easily winning every match in 1988. After this, Pearce stood down from representative rugby league, despite pressure for him to return after Queensland won even more easily in 1989. In 1988 he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia "for service to rugby league". Pearce was also the inaugural winner of the Ken Stephens Medal for Community Service by a Rugby League player.

Pearce also made an appearance the 1988 Australian television movie The First Kangaroos, which depicted the 1908–09 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain.[1]

Pearce captained the Balmain Tigers to two successive grand finals in 1988 and 1989, both of which they lost. In 1990, Pearce could not play a full match until the seventeenth round, but for the rest of the season he was at his best, seen clearly in the play-off for fifth with Newcastle, when he scored a crucial try from a bomb and carted the ball forward as fearlessly as ever. The following week, though, proved to be his last match as Balmain lost 0–16, sparking a major decline in the club's fortunes after Pearce's retirement.


In February 2008, Pearce was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia.[2][3]


There was always speculation Pearce would coach Balmain after his retirement, and he did so after the sacking of controversially appointed former union coach Alan Jones at the end of 1993 after three disappointing seasons. Owing to the clubs significant financial problems, Pearce was never able to bring Balmain back to prominence, and as a result of the pressure resulting from the Super League war between 1995 and 1997, they were forced to merge with Wests after the 1999 season. Pearce coached the Wests Tigers through their inaugural year, but unfortunately, the stress involved led him to stand down from club coaching commitments.

Pearce also coached NSW, and in 2000 the Blues beat Queensland 3-0 which included the largest ever win in State of Origin history in Game 3 of the 2000 series, which NSW won 56-16. This resulted in Pearce becoming the only person to ever Captain and Coach a 3-0 series whitewash.

Post retirement[edit]

After 10 years as a rugby league commentator for Fox Sports, Pearce was appointed as an inaugural member of the Australian Rugby League Commission which commenced on 10 February 2012. Pearce who is a highly regarded motivational speaker will continue to run his leadership and team performance consultancy through his company Wayne Pearce Advantage. He also fronts the rock cover band Wayne Pearce and the Big Hitters


  1. ^ John Robinson and Garrett Jones (8 June 1988). "Family fights to clear League Hero's Name". The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). p. 74. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Peter Cassidy (2008-02-23). "Controversy reigns as NRL releases top 100 players". Macquarie National News. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  3. ^ "Centenary of Rugby League – The Players". NRL & ARL. 2008-02-23. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Alan Jones
Balmain Tigers

Succeeded by
Joint Venture
Preceded by
Joint Venture
Wests Tigers

Succeeded by
Terry Lamb
Preceded by
Tommy Raudonikis
New South Wales
State of Origin

Succeeded by
Phil Gould