Turning 31-years-old in a couple of months, nib Newcastle Knights captain Mitchell Pearce knows he’s in the back-end of his career, but that’s not deterring his focus from his main goals for 2020 - not in the slightest.
While achieving individual goals such as returning to representative footy is something the halfback is hoping for from the season to come, it’s clear that preparing for Round One is his top priority, particular this weekend when the Knights host the Dragons at Maitland Sportsground in the side’s first trial.
Last year saw Pearce win his first State of Origin series after returning in Game 3 last year and in order to attain success again, he’s taking it “one day at a time, one week at a time.”
Pearce: Trial focus, Brailey combo and halves contenders
“I’d love to play rep footy, but it’s literally just one day at a time,” Pearce said.
“Who knows how the season’s going to unfold.
“I’d love to be involved in that stuff, but the only way I’m even going to be in contention for anything like that, or playing good footy for the Knights, is worrying about today.
“I’ll enjoy today, I’ll enjoy tomorrow, and I’ll enjoy the first trial and we’ll go from there.”
Klemmer: Nines fallout and Dragons trial
The 2013 NRL premiership-winner watched the NRL Nines from home but was impressed with how the team performed and was confident the boys would take that momentum into this weekend’s fixture.
“Everyone’s looking forward to getting a run. I know I am personally,” he said.
“Everyone that’s come back has a spring in their step.
“I thought we defended great. It was great to watch. We played really well, and I was really proud of the boys.
“Trials are tough. There’s players in and out, there’s different combinations and you’re not playing the whole game. It’s just a matter of getting your trademarks on and what you’ve been practicing at training.
Creating and solidifying strong combinations will be a key area of focus for Pearce and coach Adam O’Brien this weekend.
One of the primary partnerships that has caused much speculation is who the captain will be playing alongside in the halves, but that’s not the only position Pearce is looking to strengthen as he looks to link up with his new rake, Jayden Brailey.
“If we achieve what we want to achieve and are successful, he’ll [Brailey] be one of the better signings of the year I think,” he said.
“He’s been really impressive and he’s a good team-man too so I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
“There’s plenty of positions up-for-grabs.
“Kurt’s [Mann]been training in five-eighth most the pre-season. He’s been a real stand out. I’ve seen him evolve heaps over the pre-season…Mase [Lino] played really well in the Nines so I’m sure there’ll be some combo swapping this week.
“You have a big squad for a reason and we’re going to be using all that squad over the course of the season.”
The Knights vs. Dragons trial game will be held at Maitland Sportsground this Saturday 22 February, kicking off at 5:30pm.