Pearce striving for stable Knights in 2020

Mitchell Pearce is hoping a big pre-season helps Newcastle improve on last season's 11th place.
Mitchell Pearce is hoping a big pre-season helps Newcastle improve on last season's 11th place.

Newcastle Knights captain Mitchell Pearce concedes his own inconsistencies as a leader affected the performance of the playing group in 2019.

It's the one area the 30-year-old wants to improve under new coach Adam O'Brien, who is desperate to build support around their star playmaker.

Two weeks into Knights' preparations for 2020, the New South Wales halfback is refreshingly honest about the faults in his form and how it contributed to the disastrous finish to 2019.

Off the back of six man-of-the-match Pearce performances, the Knights were in the top four midway through the 2019 season before losing all but two of their last 10 games to finish 11th.

Pearce vowed things would be different under O'Brien.

"It's going to be a consistent team performance week in and week out. That's what we're striving for," he said.

"We've probably lacked in consistency; I lacked in consistency last year in my own form and as a leader that probably rubbed off on the group.

"As a whole group most of the boys would probably put their hand up and say they weren't consistent for every round.

"The coach wants to create a culture where whoever is playing in the side, we have our fundamental basics we do week in and week out. The teams I've been involved with, the good ones, you get consistency off that."

In his first press conference as coach a fortnight ago, O'Brien said he wants to take the pressure off Pearce to need to play a nine out of 10 game for the Knights to win.

However, as one of the most maligned halfbacks in the NRL over the past decade, Pearce is an old hand at absorbing pressure and rising above it.

It's consistency he needs help with, and part of that is finding a regular halves partner.

"It's no secret that swapping and changing in the spine doesn't help anyone, it probably breeds inconsistency," Pearce said.

"It's a part part of the cog. Adam is a high-end coach and he's got his ideas there. At the moment there's plenty of the boys pushing hard to get in that position."

The Knights have a number of capable five-eighths on the books including Connor Watson, Kurt Mann, Mason Lino and rookie Phoenix Crossland.

However, Pearce said he has no idea who the front runner is to partner him.

For now, all he's focused on is getting himself prepared for an important season.

"I've been around long enough, I know what I need to do to prepare as well as I can for next season and I'll be making sure that in my own backyard I'm clear and consistent for my team this year," he said.

Australian Associated Press