NRL | Co-captain Mitchell Pearce won't be involved in the play-offs but says there is no club he would rather be at as the Knights prepare to take on the Dragons in Saturday's final round

Newcastle Knights Training at Balance Field Mayfield. Picture: Simone De Peak
Newcastle Knights Training at Balance Field Mayfield. Picture: Simone De Peak

For Mitchell Pearce, it’s a September that’s “gunna suck”.

Feeling fresh after a three month injury lay-off and no Origin footy to drag him down physically and mentally, he’s not looking forward to being a spectator during the finals series like the rest of us.

But in the same breath, Pearce says there is no club he would rather be at. 

The Knights season will be done and dusted come late Saturday afternoon at McDonald Jones Stadium.

But there is not one ounce of regret from the Knights playmaker over his move to Newcastle to link with a club devoid of the sort of success he had become accustomed to at the Sydney Roosters.

He says the challenge is what is driving him now. 

“I love the place and I love the boys here,”he said.

“Every day when you come in, there is always something new going on when a club is rebuilding. 

“We can come up with a lot of different excuses [for this season].

“There has been a lot of injuries but there are areas in our game that need a lot of improvement. If we had those things nailed, we’d be coming first.

“That’s the reason why we are fighting to finish 10th.

Challenged: Playmaker Mitchell Pearce won't be involved in the finals series but while it "sucks" not playing in September, he says the challenge of lifting the Knights out of the doldrums is what is driving him. Picture: AAP.

Challenged: Playmaker Mitchell Pearce won't be involved in the finals series but while it "sucks" not playing in September, he says the challenge of lifting the Knights out of the doldrums is what is driving him. Picture: AAP.

“We have a lot of things we need to improve on going into next season and that’s part of why I’m here.

“I love the team and we are going onto bigger and better things. I’m really excited for a big off-season.”

But there is one final assignment first.

A final home game against the embattled St George Illawarra Dragons on Old Boys’ Day this Saturday.

As a Sydney Roosters player, Pearce never experienced a Knights’ Old Boys’ Day.

But he is aware of the club’s history and the role the Old Boys’ continue to play.

“I’m just really excited,”he said.

“From my short time here, I’ve experienced the support that the Old Boys give us as players. I didn’t even know many of those guys but they take you in as one of their own and all the new boys have spoken about that.

“To have that solidarity from old legends to take you in and give you that support and welcome you in, it means a lot to the new boys.”

Pearce says the Dragons game will be as much about the emotion of the day as it will be about game plans and attacking structures.

“We have got a few obstacles this week with players out,” he said.

“We are a bit short there but Cogs [Jack Cogger] comes into the halves and we’re going to mix our roles up a bit in attack and try to get some variations with Kalyn out, who gives us a lot of strike and Connor, with his speed.

“But that’s not the only way to win a game a footy. We’ve got to muscle up in the areas that’s let us down around the ruck in defence and I need to kick a bit better than I did last week.

“But I’ve got full confidence we can put some footy together if we do the whole game well. It’s not just about your attack or your halves, it’s about the whole picture.

“And this week, we have focused more on the emotional side of things.

“It’s Old Boys’ Day and I haven’t been apart of that. I’m new to the club but it’s been spoken about how big a day it is.

“It will be more about emotion this week than set plays.”

A real positive for the Knights is the lack of pressure on the home side with the Dragons a club massively under the pump.

They currently sit in sixth spot and with a remarkable record of 15 wins from 19 matches at McDonald Jones Stadium, will have no fear about the trip to Newcastle.

But they are coming off some poor form over the past couple of months and a 38-0 drubbing at the hands of the lowly Bulldogs last weekend that saw their own fans viciously turn on the players and coach Paul McGregor.

Pearce, though, is not banking on a below par Dragons performance.

“They’re a quality side with so many great players but they are obviously a bit down on form. They would say that themselves,” he said

“But it is the last round of the season and they are going to be in the finals so they’ll be really confident coming into this game.

“We are worried about our backyard more than the Dragons.

“It’s a big game for us. There is a really good tight-knit group of boys here and we want to finish together and finish on a bit of a high.”

With 25,000 fans tipped to attend, Pearce says they are owed a good performance.

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