Five Knights vie to replace axed Pearce | Ralph Lauren

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Kalyn Ponga could be the man to replace dethroned captain Mitchell Pearce at Newcastle after the Knights fullback was named among a five-man leadership group.

Veteran playmaker Pearce stood down as skipper earlier this month after a text messaging scandal involving an employee at the NRL club.

Coach Adam O’Brien had already planned to introduce a leadership group, which was announced on Saturday and featured Ponga, forward Mitch Barnett, NSW Origin front rower Daniel Saifiti, veteran five-eighth Blake Green and hooker Jayden Brailey.

The captain will come from that group and be named in March.

Queensland Origin fullback Ponga signed a new, rich contract extension at the Knights last year, revealing a desire to win the city’s third NRL title as a major driver in the decision.

Pearce has promised to “take steps to address these issues” but said it was in the club’s best interests for him to step down as captain.

“I love this club and I love my family and I’ve committed to working as hard as I can to be the best man I can be both on and off the field,” he said earlier this month.

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