As frustrated as he was to spend three months on the sidelines, Knights playmaker Mitchell Pearce used the downtime to plan for the final third of the season.
Though he would have preferred more pleasant conditions than the cyclonic wind and rain that lashed McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday, Pearce made a successful return from injury and set up the winning try in Newcastle’s 10-6 victory over the Warriors.
It was not an ideal environment for Pearce and new halves partner Jake Clifford to strike up an instant combination, but they utilised the gale at their backs in the second half to launch a bombing raid on rookie Warriors fullback Reece Walsh.
Off the back of the errors that forced, they conjured a win.
"It was tough conditions, obviously, to kick and get anything really tricky on, but we just wanted to play tough in those conditions and try and complete as much as we could," Pearce said.
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"I thought early, we probably played a little bit too sideways a couple of sets down their end and made a few errors which led to their run-away try, but after that we started to change direction a bit more and playing through them and we got some results."
A week after playing his 300th NRL game, Pearce suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Newcastle’s 22-13 loss to the Dragons on April 4. He showed no lingering effects of that injury against the Warriors.
It’s been tough, but you can learn a lot if you use that time wiselyMitchell Pearce on his time on the sidelines
He said he expected to pull up sore but "it’s come up well" and, with a bye this weekend he has two weeks to prepare for their next game against the Cowboys.
"I was challenged pretty hard there early, and I had a fair few tackles where it was welcome back, [that] sort of thing, but once you’re out there you just try and put your head in there and get some early contact," he said.
Adding insult to Pearce’s pec injury, the Knights won just three of the 10 games he missed.
While the Knights missed Pearce’s direction and leadership during his absence they have also had to make do without game-breaking fullback Kalyn Ponga for the past six matches because of a nagging groin injury.
Ponga is expected to return against former club North Queensland in Newcastle on July 3.
Pearce hopes that will be the first of a string of games he, Clifford, Ponga and skipper Jayden Brailey can play together.
"It’s been tough, but you can learn a lot if you use that time wisely," Pearce said.
"It’s not ideal to be injured, but like I said, if you use that time wisely, you can come back with a clearer head and that’s what I’ve tried to do."
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Pearce, who has partnered a host of different five-eighths since arriving from the Roosters in 2018, hopes Clifford will become a fixture in Newcastle’s No.6 jersey.
The game against the Warriors was only Clifford’s third in Newcastle colours since his mid-season switch from the Cowboys, and his first win.
"He’s [Clifford] a really talented player, he’s got a really good kick on him, and a couple of his kicks [against the Warriors] got us possession back and we’ll only get better," Pearce said.
"It’s massive [having a regular five-eighth], especially with someone that plays a style like him where we both can balance our roles out. I don’t have to always play on the ball and same for him, which frees both of us up.
"Having two kickers is the difference. You have two kickers, it just takes so much pressure off the team and each other."