Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien admits it’s nice to have a chaos manager like Mitchell Pearce in his ranks after warning his side to prepare for some “uncomfortable moments” thanks to the NRL’s new six-again rule.
The Knights mentor liked what he saw in Thursday’s competition return when a slick Parramatta outfit exploited the changes in a comprehensive defeat of Brisbane.
O’Brien said the six-again rule – designed to deter ruck infringements and generally speed up play – suited his side, even with livewire Kalyn Ponga (suspended) on the sidelines for Sunday’s clash with Penrith.
“There’s no doubt it’s going to be challenging; there’s going to be some uncomfortable moments where we’re going to have to turn up for your mate,” he said after watching both Brisbane and the Eels scramble in defence in Thursday night.
“I’m really confident in what we’ve done in the preseason, put ourselves in a few uncomfortable moments and come out the other side and the challenge is to do that on Sunday.”
Pearce was instrumental in the Knight’s 2-0 season start before the shutdown and O’Brien said the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the NRL’s return made him even more crucial to the side.
“Absolutely; the more players that you have out there with experience in chaos is certainly beneficial,” he said.
“And Junior’s (Pearce) certainly a guy that, (based on) last night, would really suit his game and he’s a calming effect on the rest of the group.
“They’ve got their heads around what’s sort of coming.”
Penrith, also undefeated, will fancy themselves too given probing hooker Api Koroisau’s early-season form.
“He was important to the Panthers in rounds one and two and after last night he’s certainly still important to them,” O’Brien said.
“They’ve got forwards who come off the back fence … and that certainly brings Api into the game.
“He’s one of those players … we need to leave space to defend their structured play and also defend some individuals and Api’s certainly someone we’ve prepared for this week.”