Keary relishing prospect of facing Pearce
Luke Keary is relishing the prospect of facing his former Sydney Roosters halves partner Mitch Pearce, having walked in the same uncomfortable shoes the star No.7 is about to don.
While Pearce must first negotiate Newcastle's round two clash with the Canberra Raiders on Sunday evening, his junior club is already sizing up next week's clash with the Knights, who boast former recent Roosters Aidan Guerra, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Connor Watson as well as the incumbent NSW Origin half.
Pearce however will be the most anticipated familiar face at Allianz Stadium given his exit came due to Cooper Cronk's high profile arrival at Bondi, less than 10 months after Pearce had signed a two-year extension.
Keary is still in regular contact with his old scrumbase partner, and faced a similarly awkward homecoming, albeit under more testy circumstances, when he played his former South Sydney club for the first time after falling out with owner Russell Crowe.
After marking his own comeback from a broken jaw with a try and two assists against Canterbury, Keary admits there will be added emotion and focus on one of the most hyped individual match-ups of 2018.
"I know when I played Souths last year, it's obviously a different feeling, a little bit more emotion and stuff like that," Keary said.
"I don't think there'd be any animosity or anything like that. It'll just be that weird feeling."
Between Pearce, Kenny-Dowall and Guerra the Knights boast three premiership-winning Roosters and over 600 games in the red, white and blue.
Along with Watson, fellow livewire Kalyn Ponga and veteran forwards Chris Heighington and Jacob Lillyman, expectations are high around Nathan Brown's rebuild in the Hunter, which Pearce got off to a winning start with last week's golden point field goal against Manly.
The former Roosters junior cheekily added his own weight to the pre-season hype around his old club, declaring Cronk's signing crowned them deserved short-priced title favourites, with "a lot of pressure on them now".
While Trent Robinson and Boyd Cordner refused to bite on questions about Pearce and Cronk's showdown, the Allianz Stadium big screens were sporting promos of the clash as soon as the siren sounded on a 30-12 win over the Bulldogs.
Keary is expecting plenty of attention over the coming week, and the same old Pearce he saw during the 12 months he called him a teammate.
"I keep in touch with him all the time I was talking to him after his game last week, I thought he was awesome. He's loving his time up there I can tell you that," Keary said.
"I definitely know what he'll come out here and do. I played with him for 26, 27 weeks last year and you know what you're going to get with him.
"He's going to compete for 80 minutes.
"He's got some good weapons around him. They've got a powerful forward pack and they've obviously got Ponga, Connor and some good outside backs playing off Junior."