Knights legends back Mitchell Pearce for captaincy role at the club

Excited: Mitchell Pearce was all smiles at his first press conference as a Newcastle Knight at Mayfield Balance on Monday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Excited: Mitchell Pearce was all smiles at his first press conference as a Newcastle Knight at Mayfield Balance on Monday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

NATHAN Brown sold the Knights to Mitchell Pearce with one simple line.

He told him he could “own” the team.

The Newcastle coach should now take it a step further and make it official by appointing him to a captaincy role.

Not since former coach Wayne Bennett clocked on for his first day on the job with the Knights back in November 2011 has a signing stirred up the sort of media interest Pearce attracted in Newcastle for his first training session with his new club at the Knights’ Mayfield headquarters on Monday.

And for his part, Pearce could not have been any more impressive on the training paddock or in front of the cameras.

His first assignment was a compulsory test of his fitness – a 2 km time trial which every player at the club is required to complete on day one. 

If he was out to make an early statement, he succeeded. Insiders suggested his time was among the quickest of anyone at the club. 

He was just as convincing in front of the media scrum afterwards. 

While it’s true he has 4 million reasons for linking with the Knights after ending his 10 year-238 game career with the Sydney Roosters, you sense the NSW Origin halfback is motivated by much more than just the dollars in deciding to side-step offers from Manly and Cronulla. 

He talked about new challenges and opportunities and of wanting to play a big part in what the club is building under Brown.  

There was a genuineness about his words and excitement in his voice.

His distractors [and there are plenty] will no doubt point to his chequered past as a reason for not making him skipper, a job he held jointly with Jake Friend at the Roosters in 2015 until he was stripped of the honour.

Others will argue one day on the job at a new club is hardly enough time to judge his leadership credentials.

But if Brown wants Pearce to run the show and take responsibility for the team, it would seem a captaincy role should go with.

Former Knights coach and Kangaroos assistant Michael Hagan and club legend Danny Buderus have no doubt Pearce has the qualities and experience to lead the Knights forward.

“I like him as a player and as a leader and I think he still has a lot of footy in front of him,”Hagan said.

“If he is going to run the team which is obviously the case, it’s a no-brainer for me.”

 Buderus said Pearce is a “natural captaincy fit” and would have him in a duel role with last season’s co-captain Jamie Buhrer.

“I think that [the leadership] is the big part Mitchell wants to grow,” Buderus said

“From a playmaking point of view, I think he would relish having that next to his name and wouldn’t see it as added pressure.

“In saying that, everyone has been super-impressed with what Jamie has done in the group both on and off the field since he has been here.

“Between Jamie and Mitchell, there is a couple of really good candidates there and it would take the pressure of Sione [Mata’utia].”