Mitchell Pearce has missed more than two months but Adam O’Brien believes the star halfback can spur Newcastle to the NRL finals with a hot run of form.
Pearce is set for his return against the Warriors after missing 10 weeks with a pectoral injury he suffered back in round four.
Despite some patchy form and a plethora of injuries, the Knights are two points out of the top eight and readying for a run up the ladder in the final 10 games of the season.
Pearce will link with new recruit Jake Clifford against the Warriors on Saturday, marking the first time this season the Knights have fielded their first choice halves.
“Judging on his training this week he’s looking great,” O’Brien said of Pearce on Friday.
“He’s in really good physical condition but mentally, the way he’s steered the team around this week with young Jake Clifford, they’ve gelled really well together.
“I expect a really good performance from Mitchell. He’ll naturally get better over the back end of the season.”
A relatively easy run home makes the pursuit possible.
The Knights face just Melbourne and Sydney Roosters from the league’s top sides over the last 10 games and play Brisbane twice as well as Canterbury, Gold Coast, North Queensland, Canberra and Cronulla.
They’re 14th on the ladder with a bye up their sleeve and sit on 10 competition points along with the Titans and Wests Tigers.
Just two points separates seven teams on the ladder from eighth down to the Knights.
“We’ve had some luck there from other teams and results to keep that fairly congested,” O’Brien said.
“The ball is squarely with us now, we need to get us right not rely on opposition teams, we need to get us on a roll.
“We’re looking at the back end of the year, the next 10 weeks is a real opportunity for us to not only get some consistency with the playing group, but how we want to play our footy.
“They’re all crucial, but this week is pretty big for is.”