While the commonly held view has been that Luke Brooks could end up in the Hunter, new Tigers' director of football Tim Sheens squashed that notion on Sunday evening, saying he would remain at the club until the end of his current deal in 2023.
It means the Knights have began to search for other alternatives, and while it's admittedly not their first priority, former St George Illawarra Dragons' half Corey Norman has been touted as an option.
Norman was told mid-season that he wouldn't be offered a new deal by the Dragons beyond 2021 following a run of indifferent form. The former Parramatta half has since been attempting to remain in the NRL, but has also reportedly been in discussions with Pearce's likely new home, the Catalans Dragons.
That comes as they replace the retiring James Maloney.
Channel 7s Michelle Bishop told SEN Radio that Corey Norman's management has had discussions with the Knights on Thursday morning.
“I will say that it is defenitely not the Knights’ priority.
“The Dragons were not interested and if you join the dots that’s because they were already well advanced in talking to Mitchell Pearce as their preferred option.”
As unlikely as a Norman move to the Hunter sounds, the Knights may not need to use their new signing as a first-choice replacement to Pearce, with Simi Sasagi, Adam Clune, Jake Clifford and Phoenix Crossland all at the club, as well as the touted move of Kalyn Ponga into the halves.
“Scott Drinkwater has also been mentioned but he is contracted until the end of 2023 at the Cowboys,” Bishop said.
While Drinkwater can play other positions, it would appear Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow will start at fullback in the 2022 season following a late burst there in 2021.
The Knights are unlikely to grant Pearce a release until a replacement is secured.