NRL news 2021: Mitchell Pearce trade rumours, Newcastle Knights, Matty Johns, Kalyn Ponga


As speculation ramps up about Mitchell Pearce’s future at the Newcastle Knights, a legend of the club has issued a stern warning.

Newcastle legend Matty Johns has urged his old club to do everything it in its power to hold on to Mitchell Pearce, as rumours swirl about the halfback’s future.

The Knights’ season ended on Sunday when they lost to Parramatta 28-20 in their elimination final and talk has quickly turned to the state of their roster.

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Pearce is contracted with Newcastle until the end of the 2022 season, but mounting speculation suggests the star halfback could leave to join another NRL club or a team overseas.

The 32-year-old has been linked to the Canterbury Bulldogs, Canberra Raiders, Wests Tigers, as well as the Catalans Dragons in the Super League.

In his four seasons with the Knights, they have missed the finals twice and finished seventh on the ladder in 2020 and this year, losing the elimination final on both occasions.

Johns, who won a premiership with Newcastle in 1997, believes it is crucial the Knights manage to keep Pearce due to the lack of specialist halfbacks in the NRL.

“As far as Pearce is concerned, there’s just not enough out and out halfbacks in our game,” Johns told SEN.

“They can’t allow Mitchell Pearce to leave, there’s been all sorts of talk that he will go here or there.

“But the bottom line is, he’s under contract at the Newcastle Knights, and they’ve got to keep him.”

But Pearce’s future with the Knights is “genuinely up in the air”, according to NRL journalist with The Australian Brent Read.

Read said there is a real possibility Pearce could leave Newcastle and his potential vacancy could be filled by a star fullback Kalyn Ponga moving to the halves.

Ponga impressed with his playmaking skills against the Eels on Sunday and he could move to five-eighth earlier than expected if Pearce departs the club.

“The interesting thing is we saw Kalyn Ponga up in the line yesterday,” Read told Triple M on Monday.

“When he got his hands on the ball he created havoc. If there is a move with Pearce over the off-season and there is a chance there could be, that could be the prelude to Kalyn Ponga moving to six on a permanent basis next year.

“I know down the track it looks like Kalyn will move to six at the Knights. I think it (Pearce’s future) is genuinely up in the air.

“If Mitch wants to stay, he’ll be there. If Mitch wants to go and find a two-year deal somewhere, he could leave. If that happens don’t be surprised if Kalyn Ponga moves to six next year.”

Ponga is contracted with Newcastle to the end of 2022 with an option in his favour for 2023 and 2024.

The Knights have been ravaged by injury this year and have rarely been able to get their spine of Ponga, Pearce, five-eighth Jake Clifford, hooker Jayden Brailey and lock Connor Watson in on the park at the same time.

However, if the core of their squad stays fit next season, the Knights could climb up the ladder in 2022.

Originally published as Matty Johns’ plea as rumours swirl around Mitchell Pearce’s NRL future

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