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Pearce eager for 'half a game' alongside Ponga

Mitchell Pearce has hinted that he and Kalyn Ponga will have 40 minutes to shine in their trial against St George Illawarra on Saturday.

The nib Newcastle Knights travel to Kogarah this weekend for their first hit-out for 2019.

They then wind up pre-season preparations against Cronulla at Maitland on March 2 before another meeting with the Sharks in their season-opener at McDonald Jones Stadium on March 15.

But when it comes to this weekend, what is the playmaker hoping to take away from the trial?

“Hopefully a few tries, a few try assists,” Pearce said.

“Our number one job, only playing half a game and first time we’ve played together, is just getting the team combinations going.

“Defence is going to be a big focus for us this season.”

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The game also acts as an opportunity for Ponga to silence his critics.

The livewire copped some criticism for his performance in the All Stars match but Pearce has his back.

He also believes the squad has the right balance of senior players and exuberant youth.

"I’ve said it a million times, Kalyn is a pretty easy player to play with and I’m really excited to develop a combination with him this year," Pearce said.

"It’s always good having a range of senior players around, and we’ve got a good crew there. There’s a lot of older, experienced forwards there now as well."

Preparing for his second year with the Club, the premiership-winning halfback has embraced the expectation swirling around the Knights in the build-up to the Telstra Premiership.

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"We’re jumping out of our skin and we’re really looking forward to a big season. Like all teams, we’re going to take time to develop," he said.

"You’d like to think that you can hit the ground running from the first trial game but we’re confident we’ve done all the work, and worked as hard as any other team, we’d like to think.

"The expectation is a good thing – we’re embracing it and we’re looking forward to it. You’d rather be respected than no-one talking about you."

Pearce missed nine games in the middle of last season because of a torn pectoral muscle.

The injury stalled the Club’s season and the team finished 13th.

But in what will come as music to the ears of red and blue supporters, Pearce is primed for a big year.

"My health’s good, I feel fit, we’ve trained really well, and as I’ve said, it’s probably one of the biggest pre-seasons I’ve had in a long time," he said.