Newcastle halfback Mitchell Pearce is the key to the Knights chances of not just making the NRL finals but also having an impact, according to True Blue Steve Roach.
Roach told Behind Blue Eyes for nswrl.com.au that Pearce’s return from a pectoral injury showed the difference he could make.
Pearce played Rounds 15, 16 and 21 and in those three games he’s had four try assists, three off-loads, eight tackle-busts, a line break and scored a try himself.
“I think he’s the lynchpin for them,” Roach said.
“He’s got that calmness about him - he’s got that experience and makes the team not be so helter-skelter.”
Although Bradman Best (shoulder) is still under an injury-cloud this week, he had been named at centre for Sunday’s game against the Shark
“If you’ve got ‘Junior’, Best and (Kalyn) Ponga on that left-hand side they’re as dangerous as anyone if they’re playing well,” Roach said.
The Knights sit in 9th spot on the NRL ladder but have the same competition points (20) as the Titans and Raiders in 7th and 8th – the difference being the for-and-against.
Newcastle ended a seven-year finals drought in 2020 but were knocked out comprehensively 46-20 by South Sydney, who scored eight tries to three.
Roach said in 2021 they needed to remember that game, what it felt like, and use it to push into the top-eight this year.
“They’ve got to find a way. But I reckon they’ve got the personnel to do it – I think they’ve got the personnel to get into the eight and win a couple of semi-finals,” Roach said.