Newcastle Knights skipper Mitchell Pearce hopes 2021 is a “career-defining year” for himself – and his team.
The influential playmaker returned to pre-season training this week, determined to lead the Hunter club to the next level after the NRL outfit contested finals football in 2020 for the first time since 2013.
And, with a swag of new faces joining the fold, the captain is confident of doing just that.
“I love having, and setting, big goals,” Pearce said.
“It makes me motivated.
“I think, as a group, the higher you set your bar, the better you’ll play.
“Pressure can be a great thing, too.
“We need to have high goals and we need to train hard to achieve them.
“If we get what we’re out to accomplish, it will definitely be that [career-defining].”
NSW State of Origin star Tyson Frizell (St George Illawarra Dragons), powerful forward Sauaso Sue (Canterbury Bulldogs), Bailey Hodgson (Castleford), Dominic Young (Huddersfield) and Jack Johns (South Sydney) – the son of Matthew and nephew of Eighth Immortal Andrew – have recently linked up with the Knights, bolstering the club’s depth.
“We have a terrific squad, there’s no issues there,” Pearce said.
“Tyson will be great for the team.
“But, we need to get stuck into our combinations from day one.
“Consistency is also key to any success – that’s something we’ll aim for in 2021.”
Not surprisingly, this year was like no other, according to Pearce, thanks to COVID-19 and “bubble” life.
However, he is still grateful the players were able to return to the field at all.
“It was a long draining season,” he admitted.
“So, just to get away from the game [recently] was really good.
“Luckily, I spent plenty of time with my fiancé (Kristin Scott) in and around Newcastle.
“I’m getting married at the end of the year, so there’s a lot of prep for that.
“I also helped Kristin start up her studio; I enjoyed that.
“She’s doing a great job.
“I caught up with some friends, too.
“But, it goes pretty quickly, like off-seasons always do.
“Now, I’m ready to go again.
“I love training hard.
“Obviously, with the way the pre-season is this year, we’ve only got six or seven sessions before holidays for Christmas.
“It’ll be certainly different to the one we had in 2019.
“We’ll use the time to put a few kilometres in the legs and work on skills.
“Plus, being an older player [these days], it’s important to get your strength up, too, on the weights in the gym.
“Then we’ll start again in the new year.”
As for speculation about his future, Pearce said it was “part and parcel of footy”.
“There’s always something written about us as players,” he explained.
“It’s the sport we play and what people want to read.
“From my point of view, I had nothing to say as far as the Sydney Roosters’ rumours or those at other clubs.
“And, there was a lot of talk.
“However, I love the club here and I’m contracted this year.
“I’ll be doing everything to get us that premiership.”
The Knights are scheduled to tackle the Trent Barrett-coached Canterbury Bulldogs in round one at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday 12 March, followed by a trip across the ditch to face the New Zealand Warriors.