AN unfortunate reminder of the lowest moment in his career proved no distraction as Mitchell Pearce produced another inspirational captain's knock for the Newcastle Knights on Saturday.
The Knights outlasted Canterbury 22-10 at Suncorp Stadium to notch their third successive victory, and Pearce has arguably been man of the match in all three wins.
On Saturday he scored a fine solo try by winning the race to ground his own grubber kick and produced a try assist to put Lachlan Fitgibbon over. But perhaps his most important play came two minutes from full-time, with Newcastle clinging to a six-point lead, when he scrambled to regain a loose ball, which ultimately allowed fullback Kalyn Ponga to dart over for the match-sealing try.
It was the type of performance that would surely have been noted by NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler, as pressure mounts on incumbent Blues halfback Nathan Cleary.
"He's playing really well," Knights coach Nathan Brown said of Pearce.
"You've only got to look at the end of the game and who got the loose ball before Kalyn scored. He's certainly got his game in order.
"He scored a nice try, created one just before half-time and the loose ball and the compete bit is probably the most pleasing thing.
"When your captain competes that well, and Timmy Glasby competes like he does, and Dave Klemmer, it becomes a bit contagious.
"That's something we can hopefully keep doing well as a club and a team."
Pearce admitted afterwards that a decision to "simplify my game" had paid dividends in the past three weeks.
"Footy comes off the back of competing. As captain it's my responsibility to set the standard there," he said.
The 30-year-old said he had paid little attention to reports on Friday referring to the well-documented incident in 2016 that cost him a $125,000 fine ($50,000 suspended) and eight-game suspension.
The regrettable episode returned to prominence after NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg admitted that, in hindsight, Pearce's sanction had been "overcooked".
"I didn't even read it," Pearce told reporters.
"I'm just looking forward. I don't have any regrets from the past and I've learnt a lot in my life in all different scenarios."
Pearce was far from Newcastle's only hero against the Bulldogs. Klemmer topped the tackle count (48) and yardage (162) in his first game against his former club, Ponga scored his fourth try in as many games and set one up for centre Hymel Hunt, and heavyweights Daniel Saifiti and Herman Ese'ese constantly bent the defensive line.
There will be tougher tests ahead than the last-placed Bulldogs. Newcastle's next four opponents are the Dragons (away), Roosters (home), Souths (away) and Melbourne (away).