Ponga's sheer quality is blowing Pearce away
If Mitchell Pearce can find one silver lining in his long-term pectoral injury it is when he returns to the field it will be alongside an even more dominant and confident Kalyn Ponga.
Pearce has been blown away by the way the 20-year-old fullback has already stepped up in his absence to take more responsibility as a playmaker and leader.
"Some people can go the opposite way. If there is too much heat they shrink a bit, but Kalyn’s personality is that he wants more responsibility," Pearce told NRL.com at the launch of the Indigenous Round in Brisbane.
"I think he will enjoy this period of taking more ownership. The boys are saying he is talking a lot more out on the field now and being the main man."
Pearce said it was not just the fact Ponga wanted the responsibility, but also the way he coped with it that was remarkable.
"One thing that impresses me is that even if he is stressing or feeling the heat, he doesn’t show it,” Pearce said.
"I don’t think he does feel it, to be honest . Kalyn has a great personality. He’s a superstar. He wants the responsibility and wants the ball in his hands.
"I think he just plays pretty free-spirited and enjoys his footy. That is how it comes across and that is why he is such a brilliant player."
The Knights lost 36-18 to South Sydney last week but it was the fullback in the beaten side who was the talking point after several breathtaking plays.
"Last week in a team that was probably on the back foot for the majority of the game some of his touches to get our team in a good position, just purely off his own ability, were world class really,” he said.
"He is creating plenty of stuff for us and he does it on his ear, and I don’t think he has tapped into 70 per cent of his potential yet."
Ponga is being spoken of as a possible Queensland Maroons selection this year and as being the next “best player in the game”.
"Kalyn has the skill set to be one of the best in the game and the personality as well,” he said.
"He is proving that at Newcastle and everyone is loving him there. He is going to be a big part of whatever success we have.
"They are talking about him playing for Queensland now, so that’s how good he is going."
All Pearce wants to do now is to revive the promising partnership he was developing with Ponga.
He’s had an operation on his pectoral muscle, his first surgery in 12 seasons at the top level.
"It is two weeks since I did it now and they say it is a 10 to 12 week injury, so I am hoping to get back around round 18," Pearce said
“If I can do that I'll hopefully get to play a good stretch of the games on the run home. It is not ideal timing because everything was going so well and I was finding some good form.
"I have full confidence in the boys’ ability to get some wins and put us in a good position so it can be an exciting run home for the club."