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NRLNewcastle Knights skipper Pearce vows to tackle the pain barrier and return ahead of schedule.

Mitchell Pearce vows to tackle the pain barrier in early return TweetFacebookKNIGHTS skipper MitchellPearceis hoping to beback eight weeks before the NRL finals kick off as he sets about fast-tracking his return from a ruptured pectoral.
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Pearce was injured in the dying minutes of Newcastle’s 22-20 win against Wests Tigers at Tamworth on Saturday and, after scans, the initial prognosis was that he would require surgery and be sidelined for up to four months.

He is expected to undergo repairs on Tuesday but said in a radio interview with 2KO on Monday that he hoped to emulate his former Roosters teammate Boyd Corder, who tore his pectoral in the 2016 pre-season andmissed only the first seven games.

“I’m hoping for 10 weeks or so,” Pearce told 2KO.

“If we can keep getting some wins and I get back at the back end of the year, I’ll be happy with that … I’m obviously going to think about the best case, and that’s 10 weeks.”

If Pearce realises his goal and is cleared to resume in early July, he would miss nine games before boosting Newcastle in theirquest to make the play-offs for the first time since 2013.

In the meantime, his teammates are backing 20-year-old Jack Cogger to handle therole of primary playmaker.

“We’re actually really confident in Coggs, he’s a really good voice out there,” Newcastle hooker Slade Griffin said.

“Even though he hasn’t played a lot of first grade, he’s played halfback his whole life and he knows how to play the position. He’s not scared to boss the boys around.”

Griffinacknowledged nonetheless that Pearce was “going to be a massive loss,” and he said the challenge for Newcastle is to make sure they are still in finals contention when the NSW Origin halfback returns.

“We’re going to get Mitchell back at the end of the year, so if we can really improve our game and give a bit more, maybe when we get him back we can be a more potent footy team,” he said.

Back-rower Aidan Guerra said the Knights would need to dig deep collectively while Pearce was sidelined.

“There are going to be times whenwe’re going to wish that we did have Mitchell Pearce out there,but we don’t,” Guerra said.

“We can’t dwell on that. We’ve got to look forward and take on responsibility for each other.

“We’ll make a commitment to each other that we’ll take each game as it comes and win as many as possible.”

Knights coach Nathan Brown indicated Cogger, who has signed with Canterbury for next season, will be retained for Friday’s clash with Manly at Brookvale.

Cogger has played in only nine NRL games, and in all but one of them had either Pearce or Trent Hodkinson as a seniorhalves partner.

Newcastle are hopeful Connor Watson, who has missed four games with a shoulder injury, will be available to play five-eighth.

If Watson is unable to prove his fitness, Brown’s other options for pivot are Brock Lamb, who has played alongside Cogger right through their lower-grade careers,or versatile Jamie Buhrer.

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