Johnathan Thurston reckons Mitchell Pearce is giving up a priceless opportunity to learn how to be a "big game player" from Cooper Cronk by quitting the Sydney Roosters.
Thurston admitted the Roosters' decision to sign Cronk for two NRL seasons was "harsh" on Pearce, but said the 28-year-old was forgoing a golden chance to complete his skill set.
Manly is said to be leading the chase for the NSW halfback's signature, with Newcastle, Canberra, Melbourne and Cronulla all reportedly interested.
Asked if he felt for Pearce, his long-time State of Origin adversary, Thurston said: "Yes and no."
"Being the chief playmaker there for the amount of time that he has been, it's a little bit harsh.
"But then again, he's only 28 years of age. I think he could learn a lot off Cooper from the two years that Cooper is there.
"He could win another two or three premierships after Cooper's gone or even while Cooper's there."
Thurston famously sledged Pearce after Origin III in 2015, telling him the closest he'd ever get to the shield would be by standing next to Wally Lewis's statue outside Suncorp Stadium.
That comment goes to the heart of why Thurston believes he may come to rue his decision not to play alongside Cronk.
"Cooper's a big game player, knows how to get the job done," he said.
"I think that's what Mitch has probably lacked over his career - how to close out big games.
"The best players know how to do that, especially when you're under fatigue and when your backs are against the wall.
"He could have learned a lot off Cooper but he thinks he's best elsewhere."
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