The Newcastle fans should stand and cheer the Roosters next time they make their way up from Sydney and leave the loudest cheer for Cooper Cronk.
Thanks to him, you finally have a quality halfback. Not since the retirement of the great Andrew Johns have you had such a well-rounded halfback guiding your team. Mitchell Pearce is a good player and still only 28-years-old, so he has a few good seasons left in him yet.
For all of his off-field problems and there has been many and well publicised, he has always been a top NRL halfback. At state level, he is much maligned. However, he has played in an era where Queensland has dominated and contained at least three future immortals. The closest thing the modern era has seen that gives an insight into the mighty Dragons sides of the 60’s.
Mitchell Pearce debuted for the Sydney Roosters as a teenager in 2007, since then amassing 238 first grade games. Along the way becoming a Premiership winner and Origin player. That in itself would be a good career for many.
Yet here he is starting again in Newcastle after he was unexpectedly granted a release from the Roosters in the offseason. The Roosters signing of Cooper Cronk is their short-term answer to success which in turn is now the Knights long-term answer to their want of success.
The Roosters wanted to retain Pearce but after a decade in the big league, he was not prepared to take on a junior role of bench player. Manly had appeared to be the odds-on favourite to sign Pearce, then at the 11th hour was signed to a multi-year multi-million dollar deal to play under coach Nathan Brown at the Knights.
It was not that long ago the Knights were trying desperately to attract players. They tried and failed to sign many Jack Bird, Kieran Foran and James Graham to name a few. Joining Pearce and his fellow former Roosters are other quality players Kaylan Ponga, Herman Ese’ese and 317 game veteran, Chris Heighinton.
It is funny how fate works. Had some of the original targets of the recruitment drive been signed, it is quite possible the Knights may not have been able to sign Pearce. The Knights, under coach Nathan Brown, have had to rebuild and have done it the hard way. He used what he had and that meant throwing in kids some not ready for first grade and some not talented enough to stay.
At times it was hard to watch but although not many wins were had, coach Brown was able to nurture his youngsters. He now has a core group of hardened first grade NRL players including the Saifiti twins, Daniel and Jacob, Daniel Levi, Brock Lamb, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and a half dozen more.
After many years of suffering following the Nathan Tinker / Wayne Bennett failed experiment, Newcastle finally has off-field stability and a quality squad of players on the field. This group will be led by Pearce who looks to have finally matured.
Moving away from the temptations of city life can only reinforce the structures he has implemented in turning his life around. He knows that any further off-field incident will be his last. Partnering Pearce in the halves should be Brock Lamb who has applied himself well in the last two years. Both look to complement each other’s playing styles.
Lamb has had to carry the attack over the last few seasons, so having Pearce to take on a more senior role with free him to play a more natural running game. With the mix of experience and young talent, a good quality spine of Ponga, Lamb, Pearce and Levi expectations are high and many are tipping the Knights to be a top-eight team this year.
Others think that might be a little premature. Whether success comes this year or next, Mitchell Pearce will be a huge success at the Knights. He is a competitor in every game he plays. He brings big game experience to a fairly youthful team. Most of all he has a point to prove. To the Roosters for effectively not believing he could deliver them a Premiership and to the Newcastle fans to give them hope he can drive their club to a 3rd Premiership.
Mitchell Pearce is a great signing for a club on the rise. If he can maintain his off-field maturity, he and coach Nathan Brown can elevate Newcastle back to being a legitimate title contender. This year might be asking a bit too much. However, with smart coaching and player determination, anything is possible as the Cowboys proved in 2017.
The only certainty is no matter how the knights go their fans will show up as long as their team are putting in. For the fans, I hope you have success you deserve it for your loyalty shown to your team through some very tough times.
Mitchell Pearce: good buy or bust?