The weather warming up and the smell of September in the air, it’s the time of year you need your key players to step up.
For Nathan Brown and the nib Newcastle Knights, no player has the potential to influence a result quite like Mitchell Pearce.
After a blistering start to the season which saw him make a fairy-tale return to the State of Origin arena, Pearce has battled to find the same form in recent weeks.
With a do or die encounter against North Queensland looming this Saturday, Brown believes Pearce is the key to turning their season around.
“This year for that 10-week period, there certainly wasn’t a more influential player in the comp,” Brown said.
“He just needs to focus on getting himself right and not worrying about too many other people.
“When he gets that, his energy’s good and he plays well, and he helps other people play well.”
Throughout the first half of the season, Pearce was a constant talking point, with his good performances earning him five straight man of the match awards.
Brown believes it’s this type of form which makes the people around Pearce play better.
“The key for Pearcy’s understanding the players he’s playing with here, and what he needs to do to help them play well,” he said.
“If Pearcy gets his own game going from good to solid, generally the other blokes get a real opportunity to play.”
Since returning from Origin, Pearce has found himself several fresh faces in the spine.
But Brown believes this instability and inexperience haven’t impacted Pearce but have instead been exposed to due to his dip in performances.
“Pearcey’s form last year with the club when we didn’t have quite the same forward pack and he was very, very strong, and then in that 10-week period this year when he was very good, you could put anyone at 6 and it didn’t matter who was there,” Brown said.
“That’s the reality of it, Pearcy was playing so well.
“But, when Pearcy’s not playing well, it certainly shows that we do have a lack of experience in these key positions.”
Another man capable of taking the game by the scruff of the neck is Kalyn Ponga.
Brown believes he’s due for a big game against the Cowboys.
“KP’s had a couple of quieter games, but if KP focusses on carrying the football he’ll be fine,” Brown said.
“He’ll bounce back real well regardless of who’s playing with him as well.”