Mitchell Pearce could be on the verge of a historic individual season but he's declared his focus is completely set on the team's preparation as pre-season reaches its pointy end.
The State of Origin and premiership winning halfback will enter 2020 with the prospect of breaking the league record as the youngest player to ever reach 300 NRL games, but it’s not on his mind.
Instead, all he’s looking at is the next six weeks.
Over that time, the boys will progress through their final patch of pre-season training, before then playing trial games and the NRL Nines just prior to the season’s kick-off.
Pearce admitted that if they don’t give their best, they may struggle to hit the ground running when round one comes.
Pearce: Camp, return and expectations
“I’ve got heaps I still want to achieve [but] first and foremost for this year, this next six weeks are about working hard and training hard,” he said.
“I know that’s the only way to have a good year is preparing well. My focus is leading my teammates as well as I can for the next six weeks.
“We obviously have high expectations, but I’m not going to say this and that. For the next six weeks it’s about working hard and looking after our bodies so we can take on round one as good as we can.
“There’s only one formula and that’s working hard. If we do that, I’m sure the rest will look after itself.”
Saturday saw the nib Newcastle Knights return to training for the first time this year following their break for Christmas.
Having ended the year with a relentless yet rewarding pre-season camp in Tamworth, the side reconvened their training boosted by their experience together and the Northern Inland community.
Pearce said the team were “eager to get back into it again”, especially given how they finished 2019 on a high.
“We had a big camp leading into Christmas so everyone was pretty tired to be honest,” he said.
“There were a lot of early mornings and a lot of mental skills to challenge us and make us uncomfortable, but I got a lot out of it. It was one of those camps I’m sure we can draw back on through hard periods of the season.
“That perspective change is good for all of us. Being a little bit older now too, you take a breath in and really take in those moments a bit more… there’s a lot of gratitude you can really take out of that stuff.
“The biggest thing out of the camp was about being uncomfortable and learning to train hard when you’re uncomfortable and it’s going to be something that we need to draw on this year otherwise we’re not going to compete.”
Coach Adam O’Brien was the mastermind behind the Tamworth camp and tested the players’ physical and mental attributes right throughout.
It’s a trait the Knights captain expects to encounter more and more as the season nears.
“I’ve really enjoyed Adz [O’Brien],” Pearce said.
“He’s a super coach and we’re really lucky to have him here… he’s challenged us all mentally in a really good way.
“It [the Tamworth camp] was really-well constructed by Adz. Giving back to the community up there was really rewarding.
“The coaching staff are doing everything to set us up to have our best year and as a playing group, we’re really working hard and sticking tight. We’re ready for a big year."