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Sandy Pearce: League's First 'Iron Man'

While he may have been a reserved character who preferred toiling in the background, Sidney 'Sandy' Pearce was an immense figure for Eastern Suburbs in the Club's formative years and is regarded as Australia's first great hooker. 

Name: Sidney Charles Pearce
Nickname: Sandy, The Prince of Hookers
DOB: 31/05/1883
Club Debut: Round 1, 1908 vs Newtown
Roosters Player No. 10
First-Grade Games for Club: 157
First-Grade Points for Club: 17 from 5 tries and 1 goal
Premierships: 3 (1911, 1912, 1913)
Representative Career: 4 games for Metropolis (1911-1912, 1914-1915)
1 game for Sydney Firsts (1920)
32 games for NSW Firsts (1907-1914, 1920-1921)
6 games for Kangaroos (1909-1910, 1917)
19 appearances for Australia (1908-1909, 1914, 1920-1921)
Kangaroo Tour (1908-1909)
Individual Accolades: First player to register 100 appearances for Eastern Suburbs 
First player to register 150 appearances for Eastern Suburbs
First player to register 150 appearances in the NSWRFL
Oldest player to represent the Kangaroos at 38 years of age (1921)
First father-son combination to represent Australia 
Sydney Roosters Team of the Century (2000)
Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame (2005)
International Rugby League Hall of Fame (2005)
Sydney Roosters Centurions (2007)
Australian Rugby League's 100 Greatest Players (2008)

A Double Bay local, 'Sandy' Pearce grew up playing scratch football games on Double Bay Oval with close friend Dally Messenger, with 'The Master'  influencing him join to take up rugby in 1901with local club Warrigals.

The childhood pair were proficient in their newfound hobby, and eventually Pearce and Messenger found themselves playing second-grade rugby at Eastern Suburbs in 1905, before making the leap to the professional code in August 1907 as pioneers of Rugby League. 

But that's where the comparisons ended - while the dynamic Messenger dazzled crowds and stole the headlines, it was Pearce who dominated in the ruck through his deceptive strength, sheer determination and finesse.

Football has never had a gamer, rougher nor more loyal team player. Old Sandy, at hooker, was easily the best I have seen in his position.

Frank Burge Kangaroo Teammate

Oneof the original Kangaroos of 1908-1909, Pearce was a key figure in Eastern Suburbs' early successes; making his top grade debut in the Club's very first match against Newtown at Wentworth Park before scoring his first try just one week later - heralding the beginning of one of the great formative careers.

Pearce brought the Club's first silverware, foregoing Kangaroo Touring obligations to play every match between 1911 and 1913, and it was no surprise to see Eastern Suburbs emphatically claim back-to-back-to-back Premierships during this three-year period.

Following Messenger's retirement, 'The Prince of Hookers' shared captaincy duties of the Club from 1914 onwards, leading Easts to another treble of titles - this time being the City Cup - as he turned his attention to developing and mentoring the new era of Tricolour talent as a senior member of the squad. 

His longevity proved to be one of his greatest assets, breaking multiple appearance records; he was the first to reach 100 and 150 game milestones in his fourteen-year career for Easts, he became the first player to feature in 150 NSWRFL matches and still remains as the oldest player to achieve Test honours at age 38 in 1921. 

Following his retirement - and untimely passing at the tender age of 40 less than a decade after - Sandy's own son Sid 'Joe' Pearce followed in his footsteps to don the Tricolours, himself winning multiple Premierships in the dominant 1930s sides - with his own prowess marking the first father-son combination to achieve international honours in 1932. 

Former Australian teammate Frank Burge paid tribute to Pearce with a glowing appraisal for both his on-field efforts and his off-field demeanour:

"Football has never had a gamer, rougher, tougher nor more loyal team player. Old Sandy, a hooker, was easily the best I have ever seen in his position. The fact that at 38 when he toured England in 1921 is sufficient testimony to his skill. In the scrums Sandy would have those English hookers eating out of his hand. Pearce had the strength of ten men. He neither drank nor smoked to any extent, and seldom swore.

As part of his training he would spar 2 or 3 rounds with 6 or 7 of us in succession, finishing each spar by allowing us to whaile into his body with punches he made no attempt to block. Back home one of his greatest feats of strength was the carrying a bag of oysters, about 100 pounds, from Sussex Street to Double Bay. He also pulled a fishing skiff from Double Bay to Redhead on the South Coast, about 140 miles..."

As the code and the Club celebrated their centenary, Pearce's legacy was far from forgotten as he was honoured with selection in the Sydney Roosters Team of the Century (2000), Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame (2005), International Rugby League Hall of Fame (2005), Sydney Roosters Centurions (2007) and Australian Rugby League's 100 Greatest Players (2008) - incredible feats that very few, including Messenger, could claim. 

One of the finest clubmen to lace on the boots and pull on the Red, White and Blue, Sid 'Sandy' Pearce was a true pioneer of not only Rugby League, but of the Eastern Suburbs District Rugby League Football Club. 

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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