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'Not up for discussion': Knights warn poachers off Pearce

Newcastle insist Mitchell Pearce will see out the final year of his contract, with recruitment manager Clint Zammit saying an early release is beyond contemplation for the Knights.

Focus has grown on Pearce's future beyond this season amid a dearth of top-tier halfbacks, with the Bulldogs, Raiders, Wests Tigers and French outfit Catalans linked to the ex-NSW playmaker.

Pearce is contracted to the Knights next season after taking a pay cut on the one-year deal he signed in March.

The 31-year-old pushed for a longer extension at the time and has said repeatedly he wants to finish his career with the Knights.

Newcastle have confirmed the signing of back-up Dragons half Adam Clune on a two-year deal, adding to the 2022 playmaking stocks that already include Pearce, Jake Clifford, Kurt Mann and Simi Sasagi, with contract calls yet to be made on Phoenix Crossland and Tex Hoy.

Pearce wins it for the Knights!

NRL.com understands Pearce's name has come up in discussions at Canberra and Canterbury, with the prevailing theory being a two- or three-year offer could tempt him out of the Hunter.

Rival teams would be able to formally approach Pearce from November 1 about offers for 2023, with Zammit telling NRL.com that no club had been in contact regarding Pearce for next year or beyond in any case.

According to Zammit, any approach would fall on deaf ears.

Pearce hammers home a 40/20

"Nothing along the lines of an early release has been discussed by us at all, not once, and there wouldn't really be a discussion anyway," Zammit said.

"We wouldn't be releasing him. He's contracted next year and he'll be our halfback next year.

"Mitchell hasn't brought it up, we haven't brought it up. He's such an important part of our team for this year and the next.

"No club has got in contact with us about it either, if there is interest there it hasn't got to that point, but as I've said we wouldn't entertain it."

Pearce has overcome a three-month pec tear to steer Newcastle into the finals, playing a lead role in the past four victories of a five-game winning streak.

He and mid-season recruit Clifford have won six from six as a halves pairing, combining at the scrumbase in the 15-14 defeat of the Titans that sealed Newcastle's second straight finals appearance.

Zammit said an extension beyond 2022 had not been broached by the club, "but we always said to Mitchell that is not beyond the realms of him being here in 2023".

Ponga and Pearce combine to get the Knights back level

"We'll get through this year, this finals series and the pre-season and then we'll see how he's going."

Newcastle are locked into a seventh-placed finish win, lose or draw against Brisbane in their final-round clash, giving coach Adam O'Brien the chance to keep stars like Pearce and Kalyn Ponga on ice.

However given Newcastle's offensive struggles at times, and the fact Pearce and Ponga have been limited to 10 and 13 games respectively this year, any rested players are unlikely to come from the team's spine.

Match Highlights: Knights v Titans

Winger Hymel Hunt told media on Monday that Pearce had been instrumental in Newcastle's improved late-season form.

"We're very happy for Ju Ju," Hunt said. "He's come back from a few little injuries so I'm glad he's come into form especially going into finals.

"The spine's leadership around the group, especially [Pearce], his talk and his game management, we need that going into finals.

"Without them we wouldn't be winning those six games."