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Knights Exploring Alternative Route To Replacing Pearce

Sporting News logo Sporting News 17/11/2021 Ed Chisholm

Fast-tracking Kalyn Ponga's move into the halves is one of the options the Knights are genuinely exploring to fill the void left by the departing Mitchell Pearce, according to Newcastle's head of football Danny Buderus.

The Knights great is confident the club has the arsenal in-house to replace Pearce in season 2022 as the veteran halfback prepares to link up with Super League outfit Catalans.

Pearce's request for a release to move over to France was officially granted on Monday, leaving Adam O'Brien without an experienced halfback for next season.

The Knights have been linked with Luke Brooks in recent weeks, yet the playmaker has two years to run on his contract at the Tigers, who have also outlined their commitment to their halfback.

Scott Drinkwater and Corey Norman were two other names thrown in as possible options, although Buderus said the Knights were still weighing up whether they'll go to the market to replace Pearce.

“There's options, there is. Whether we go down (the path) where we don’t necessarily buy a halfback, do we go another way and buy a fullback?” Buderus said.

“There's a lot of different options we will get to weigh up. We have a lot of work to do."

Newcastle experimented with Ponga in the No. 6 jersey in 2019 under former coach Nathan Brown, and while it was aborted midway through the year, the Queensland Origin star has long been touted for a permanent halves switch.

Buderus hinted that was one of the options being explored to replace Pearce.

“The way we play, the more times Kalyn Ponga touches the ball, the better the team is going to be," he added.

"It is about how we structure our attacking processes and Kalyn getting the ball a lot of the time as you'd expect.”

The Knights also have an emerging crop of young playmakers on their books, including new arrival Adam Clune, who joined O'Brien's side from the Dragons over the off-season.

Buderus said Clune had impressed early on in the club's pre-season training, and alongside young Kiwi product Phoenix Crossland and Jake Clifford, who joined the Knights midway through the 2021 season, left the club in good hands.

“We have a responsibility in coaching the players that we have under our roof and developing these players,” Buderus said.

"Adam Clune has arrived and is winning all the fitness tests and the standards we are setting and Adam's winning a lot of those so he will get an opportunity.

"... Phoenix Crossland is getting ready to press for a position there and Jake Clifford has been here for the last year. Between those guys, we’ll be OK."

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