Mitchell Pearce was always confident a badly corked thigh would not keep him out of Friday night’s clash against the Warriors after working around the clock over the past week to get himself in a position to play.
But there was still a sense of relief in the Knights camp in Auckland on Thursday when he got through the captain’s run and declared himself a certain starter in his 250th NRL game.
“It’s still a bit sore and tender but once I warmed it up today, I could run okay,” Pearce told the Newcastle Herald.
“Hopefully, I don’t get too many knocks on it and I get through the game without it worrying me too much. There is always the risk that if it gets whacked again, there might be an issue.
“But it doesn’t feel too bad so we’ll see how we go. I’ll have plenty of padding and strapping around it.”
In a further boost, mercurial fullback Kalyn Ponga will also play despite still being hampered by an ankle problem.
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“He’s tough, Kalyn. He was limping before we trained and it’s been troubling him a little bit,” Pearce said.
“But like last week, once he gets in the game, he’ll put it to one side and he’ll be okay.”
Pearce, who could barely walk after being replaced just after halftime in his side’s 25-16 loss to Wests Tigers last weekend, said the 250 game milestone is a “nice accomplishment” but getting a win is what is important.
“I’m pretty happy to have played that many games and be one of the younger ones to get there as well,” he said.
“You obviously don’t play to get numbers though, you play to win so that’s really what counts for me.”
Knights coach Nathan Brown admitted having Pearce on the field leading the side improves their chances of causing an upset immeasurably.
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“He wasn’t in great shape after the Tigers game and I wasn’t sure he would play,” Brown said.
“But he ran okay today after a lot of time and effort went into getting him back and just having him on the field will definitely help our cause.
“You only have to look at our record without him. He is the sort of player who generates confidence out of the other boys when he is on the field.
“Hopefully, we can get some direction and a good kicking game out of him which is what we’ll be after.”
Despite the Knights’ horrendous record at Mt Smart Stadium that includes 11 defeats from their past 12 matches, Pearce is confident his side can buck the trend.
“We had a really positive session today and there was really good energy among the boys. I think we are going to go well,” he said.
“I think if we kick well and take their back men out of the game we’ll go alright. We just have to hang onto the ball and defend for the full 80 and not have any lapses.”
The Knights will go into the game with a plan to try and keep the ball away from inform Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
“We’ve got a bit of a plan to find the channels down the edges and find touch a bit because if you open the field up and give them a lot of space, you’re asking for trouble,” he said.
“Roger has been carving them up so we’ll do our best not to invite him into the game too often.”
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Brown said containing Issac Luke, Shaun Johnson, Blake Green and Tuivasa-Sheck holds the key to victory for his side.