You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce.

It's the five-horse race for seventh and eighth that is likely to come down to points differential and for a full-strength Newcastle outfit, it's now or never to get on a roll.

The Knights will welcome back Mitchell Pearce to the line-up against the Broncos on Thursday night in a four-day turnaround match that could dictate their late finals surge.

Newcastle are level with four other sides on the Telstra Premiership ladder but lopsided defeats this season have them placed in 11th with a poor -147 differential.

A lacklustre finish in their win over the Raiders – in which they conceded two late tries – is exactly the sort of thing the Knights can ill afford even if they're able to string together more wins.

Pearce's return from a three-week hamstring injury lay-off is sure to bring back the enthusiasm but they'll need more than his energy to stay within the top-eight race.

Refreshed Pearce sees silver lining from injury

"The last 10 minutes we dropped off a little bit, we were holding a big lead but can't settle for that," Pearce said.

"We had an ordinary period to finish the game. Across the board we're under no illusions we've got a lot of improvement to make.

"It was a step forward last week but it's about backing it up and going a step better. The week before that everyone was under heavy stress after two big losses.

"We had a decent performance on the weekend but we're not getting ahead of ourselves thinking finals."

Every try from Round 20

The Knights will field one of their strongest sides of the season for just the second time with Pearce's comeback timely given the challenge ahead for the Hunter outfit.

Pearce's partnership with Jake Clifford showed positive signs against the Cowboys in round 16 and will need to fire again if the Knights are to feature in September.

"It's been frustrating coming up here doing the hammy," Pearce said.

"I've only had one hamstring drama in my career and that was six years ago. It came out of left field but I've been doing everything I can to get back out on the field.

"I'm all in unless something drastic happens at training but other than that I'm playing."

The return of Pearce comes after Bradman Best made a strong return to the side's left edge on Saturday with a try and two try assists against the Raiders.

"The boys started really well, our forward pack got us on the front foot and then running off Cliff (Clifford) and K (Kalyn Ponga) we got our attack on," Best said.

"We know what we're capable of and we're definitely a team that can play semi-final footy.

The best of the 2021 NRL rookie class

"As long as we train well and stay switched on week-to-week the results will come."

Meanwhile, centre partner Kurt Mann was wary of a Broncos outfit looking to build on their win over the Cowboys last week.

"They're starting to find their feet and have got strike across the park now," Mann said.

"They've got some good outside backs. This is the first time we've had a full-strength side together for the whole year.

"Everyone is feeling good about it, we just have to go out and perform on the weekend."

True Blues on how we can get back to normal

Mann agreed to a new two-year deal at the club last week despite conceding he wasn't sure where he'll play in the side.

The expected return of Dane Gagai to the Knights in 2022 will leave Mann searching for a new position in the 17 after filling the void at right centre in recent weeks.

"Long-term wise I'm not 100 per cent sure where Adam sees me in years to come but I'm hanging around for another two years and will play it by ear as it goes," he said.

"It was something I wanted to get done pretty early. To have my future sorted now is crucial to me. I know I'm hanging around for another two years. It's just one thing to have off my plate."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

View All Partners