As a club, the Knights have some major goals we are focusing on for this year and making the city proud of us as a playing group, both on and off the field, is right up there.
It's been a tumultuous off-season for the game. All the controversy, media attention and public outrage in regard to player behaviour has really brought into focus the responsibility we have as players to clean up the image of rugby league.
For me personally, it's meant a lot of soul searching over the past few months and a genuine focus on working hard on taking more responsibility as a captain and senior player of influence within our club.
I'm certainly not in a position to bag anyone else for the way they have behaved.
I've never shied away or hidden from some of the things that I've done in the past that I'm not proud of.
The perception out there of me from people who don't know me is not something that sits well with me, especially being a captain and someone for young people to look up to.
That's something I really want to change over time if I can and I feel as if I'm now taking the right sort of steps along that path.
For starters, while I haven't put any sort of ban on myself or made a big deal of it, I haven't had a drink since Christmas.
The reason is pretty simple.
I just want to be clear and focused and it's all about understanding my responsibilities and the ripple effect it will have on the team and the community if I set the right example.
But that's only a small part of it and it's much bigger than me.
It's about all the club's senior players setting the right sort of over-all standards and example. Creating a culture we as a group can be proud of and being the right sort of influence around the younger players coming in.
Our coach Nathan Brown is really big on that sort of stuff and along with Phil Gardner, who has set the bar high with what he and the community expects from everyone, I really think all the boys are now on board and we are taking some real positive strides.
I guess if there is some good to be had in all the bad stuff that's happened off the field in the off-season, it's that player awareness of our responsibilities to the game has never been greater.
Times are a lot different now to when I first started as a player. Standards are much higher and there is much more scrutiny.
I'm certainly not in a position to bag anyone else for the way they have behaved.Mitchell Pearce
We simply have to be more responsible and more aware of our status in the community and for me, I know I am influential as an older player and that people are relying on me.
You have to set a great example on and off the field and I'll be honest, it's something I haven't really taken on board well enough at times in the past.
I really want to finish off my career up here in Newcastle in a far better way than has been portrayed at times and become a much better person into the bargain.
People have asked me if it's harder up here in Newcastle than Sydney because it's a smaller city and the focus on you is more intense?
READ MORE: Newcastle Knights
The answer to that is it's not harder if you are doing the right thing.
As players, we know what is right and wrong and if you are doing the right thing, there are plenty of good things that can happen for the team and city.
All the senior boys are all about creating the sort of off-field culture that the club and the city can be proud of. That begins with me as much as anyone.
As we proved last year at this time in Maitland, trials aren't the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to round one performance.
But we'd like to take a real step forward against the Sharks today and hopefully take plenty of confidence away by how we perform.
With a lot of new players, we've had to work real hard in the pre-season. I'd like to think it will show today.