Trent Robinson says Mitchell Pearce will always be a Sydney Rooster, but he'll also be the NRL premiers' public enemy No.1 at Newcastle's McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.
In his second season at Newcastle after a decorated 11-year career at the Roosters, Pearce has the Knights chasing a fifth successive win for the first time since 2005 and possibly even an improbable spot in the top four.
With four blazing man-of-the-match displays, Pearce is sitting equal second in the Dally M count along with superstars Cameron Smith and Roosters fullback James Tedesco behind only Melbourne game-breaker Cameron Munster.
He probably would have won the league's most prestigious individual honour last year, instead of finishing six points shy of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, had he not missed three months of the season with a pectoral injury.
Clearly Pearce is on a mission after being effectively squeezed out by Robinson after the Roosters snared champion halfback Cooper Cronk from the Storm.
"He's been in great form. He's been playing really well and that's our task tomorrow night: to shut that down," Robinson said on Thursday.
"Yeah, he's been very instrumental, the main instrument in pushing them forward."
Robinson maintains he has nothing but respect for Pearce and has his Roosters on high alert to the former NSW State of Origin half's attacking threats - and especially the deadly combination he's developing with Kalyn Ponga.
"Mitchell was a big part of our club. For us, he's obviously a Knight but he's also a premiership winner here and won other titles here and is very much a Rooster," Robinson said.
"But it's about allowing him to flourish in his own right and I think we're seeing that and it's really good to see.
"(He's) a guy that I still really like and like watching playing. Yeah, it's a joy to see him playing well."
After eight straight wins, the Roosters crashed back to earth with a shock 15-10 loss to Brisbane last week but Robinson is confident his charges are ready to bounce back.
THE STATS THAT MATTER
- The Knights are striving for five consecutive wins for the first time in 14 years.
- But the Roosters have dominated the Knights in Newcastle, winning 13 of the past 17 including each of the past three.
- Knights playmaker Mitchell Pearce is on a career-best try-scoring run, collecting four pointers in each of the past four games.
Australian Associated Press