Newcastle coach Nathan Brown believes the shift of Kalyn Ponga to fullback has allowed Mitchell Pearce the chance to focus on his own game and rediscover his best form.
Pearce was instrumental in orchestrating the Knights’ 22-10 victory against the Bulldogs on Saturday in Magic Round, with Brown admitting the release of pressure from having to combine with Ponga has helped him over the past month.
“Maybe getting him to get his own game in order enough, maybe thinking about the rest of them possibly played a part, definitely,” Brown said.
“One thing that has evolved in Mitchell's game since he first started as a young kid is running a team. Some times when you are looking to run a team – and in our case as gifted as Kalyn is he’s only young – maybe he took a little bit too much responsibility on.
“Now he’s more focused on getting himself right and getting those blokes a little opportunity to do stuff themselves. It’s probably played a part in it.”
Pearce scored a try and set up another in the 22-10 win, however his ability to direct his team around the park and come up with the right play in the crucial moments proved the difference between the two teams.
“He’s playing well. He’s playing really well,” Brown said of Pearce.
“You only have to look at the end of the game at who got the loose ball before Kalyn scored. So Pearcey has got his game in order. He scored a nice try, created one just before halftime. His game was always going to come. Halves have a quieter period at some point with that many games he’s played.
“I’m really pleased for him. He’s obviously getting a lot of credit for creating a lot of tries and scoring tries, but the way he’s competing – when your captain competes that well … it becomes a bit contagious.”
David Klemmer played his first game against his old club, running for 162 metres and making 48 tackles in an impressive outing.
“Klem’s game is a good game,” Brown said.
“We need him to keep turning up and doing what he does. He’s consistent, and that’s probably why Canterbury loved him for the same reason we love him. The boys love playing with him.
“I think Klem and the boys handled themselves well media-wise because I’m sure some of you blokes would have been looking for something. I thought they handled themselves well, and on the field they handled themselves well.”
The Knights had a number of injury concerns after the match. Winger Edrick Lee suffered an Achilles injury and is in doubt for next week, while five-eighth Connor Watson left Suncorp Stadium in a moon boot after picking up a foot injury.