Relaxed Pearce leading the way for improved Knights
Expectations among Newcastle Knights fans are high after three years of wooden spoons and the signing of several top recruits headlined by Mitchell Pearce's arrival on a four-year multimillion-dollar deal.
But the man himself is not feeling any extra burden to deliver.
The veteran NSW halfback is used to being in high-pressure situations but says being in Newcastle has helped him to be as relaxed as he has ever been heading into a Telstra Premiership season.
"There's certainly something different about the country air up here," Pearce said.
"I feel very suited to this type of environment, it's just different and the culture at the club is built on more foundation to what a Sydney club is, and since I've been here I've really experienced that.
"But I'm turning up every day and trying to be as professional as I can.
"I also need to play my best footy to help the team fire."
He has made it no secret that being part of club at the peak of its rebuilding phase was the motivation for him to make the move north up the M1 Motorway.
"You realise what you're playing for here and it's just a different sort of feel to Sydney," the halfback said.
"The club itself, along with the boys are great, and we are really working hard to be successful.
"I'm absolutely loving Newcastle so far, because you don't [know] what rugby league means to Newcastle until you experience it yourself and live in the town."
Pearce admits it's been a steep learning curve at his new club.
"It's defence that wins competitions or at least it gets you up towards that top half of the competition so that's a big thing we need to keep improving on," Pearce said.
"There's been a lot to work on and plenty of combinations to develop but I feel we've improved every day and the boys are starting to gel slowly."
Since his arrival Pearce has taken on more of a leadership role at the Knights than he had at the Sydney Roosters, mentoring the younger players at the club, and he said he could not wait to run out and play with the emerging talent that is coming through the Knights ranks.
"I think plenty of people are rapping Kayln Ponga because he has just got it and he'll be very important to us this year," Pearce said.
"Fitzy (Lachlan Fitzgibbon) has been also very impressive as I've been on his edge in defence and with the ball and he runs a line just as good as anyone.
"I think he will have a really big year if he plays to his best and he will evolve."
He said coach Nathan Brown had allowed him to have more of a say in the style of play.
"Browny is very sharp all-round as a coach, but he's very sharp with attack in leading from the halves," Pearce said.
"He's helped me with things I have to improve on already, so I've come in with an open mind and I am learning heaps."
Newcastle will run out to a sell-out crowd for the final trial against Parramatta in Jarryd Hayne's return for the Eels at Maitland Sportsground on Saturday night.