Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien believes the return of Mitchell Pearce is just the boost the Knights are looking for to secure an NRL finals berth.
The Hunter-based outfit will face the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday on the back of a gruelling four-day turnaround from Sunday’s win over Canberra.
While that schedule has made recovery more of a focus than preparation for O’Brien, he’s excited about having Pearce, fullback Kalyn Ponga and teenage centre Bradman Best in the same team for the first time in 2021.
The round 21 game will be only Pearce’s seventh appearance of the season, with Ponga and Best starring in the 34-24 win over the Raiders.
While the lack of time between matches has forced O’Brien to rest hooker Jayden Brailey, he is excited about getting his key players together on the field at just the right time of the season.
“To have him back – I think he’s played one game with Kalyn all year – so to have your spine back and playing together, I know Brails won’t be there, that’ll be the following week, but to get key playmakers back out on the field is a real shot in the arm for all of us,” he said of Pearce’s return.
The Broncos have had an extra two days’ rest after their Queensland derby win over North Queensland last Friday and have the benefit of the match being played at their home ground, due to a relocation forced by the state’s COVID-19 lockdown.
Brisbane coach Kevin Walters has been forced to alter his winning line-up, however, with Jesse Arthars coming in for Kotoni Staggs after his season-ending knee injury suffered against the Cowboys.
Danny Levi replaces Jake Turpin (ankle) at hooker with Albert Kelly handed the utility role off the bench.
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