A broken thumb is the latest setback in a dramatic pre-season for Newcastle star Mitchell Pearce who is set to undergo surgery.
The 31-year-old injured his thumb in a wrestling mishap at training but is expected to be available for round one against Canterbury on March 12.
The former Knights skipper spoke for the first time on Wednesday since relinquishing the captaincy earlier this month after revelations of inappropriate text messages with a female club staffer.
It forced the postponement of his wedding at the end of December and raised concerns about his future at the club given he is off contract at the end of the season.
When asked about his headspace leading into the 2021 season, Pearce was emotional.
“It’s a private matter so we’re working on it privately but things are going well,” he said.
“The boys have been great.
“That’s one thing about playing team sport, I think (coach Adam O’Brien) used the word ‘family’ and it’s something that I’ve always thought of being in the rugby league community around your teammates, it’s a real family.
“Right or wrong, good or bad, the boys will jump on and support their brother and their family members and that’s what it’s about.
“The way Adam explained it is the way I felt when I came back.”
Pearce returned to training two weeks ago and addressed the squad to quash any potential split in the playing group.
He said the drama in his personal life and relinquishing the captaincy has given him a renewed motivation for 2021 as he nears the final contract in his career.
“There’s different responsibilities maybe when you shift (the captaincy) but stepping down was no way for me to escape from anything,” he said.
“I’m more motivated than I’ve ever been and I’ll be leading as well as I can in the way that I do it.
“I won’t be stepping down from responsibility, or a label doesn’t change your commitment.
“I just want to win.”
The ex-State of Origin star admitted he is unsure where his future lies beyond the end of this season although he wants to remain at the club.
Meanwhile, star fullback Kalyn Ponga remains unlikely to play round one after undergoing shoulder surgery in the off-season.
The Queensland Origin star was named in the five-man ledership group for the Knights last week, which also includes Daniel Saifiti, Blake Green, Mitch Barnett and Jayden Brailey.