Highly motivated Knights prop Jacob Saifiti has spoken out about the departure of the club's chief playmaker Mitchell Pearce, declaring there is no underplaying how big a loss he will be for the side.
The reigning Danny Buderus Medallist says Pearce's immediate move to English Super League club Catalans Dragon despite having a year left to run on his contract in Newcastle "will hurt us".
"He's a good mate of mine and I'm happy for him to go over there but footy-wise, it's going to hurt us," Saifiti said.
"It's something that we are going to have to deal with. That experience we've lost with him, you can buy it but it's going to be hard to get. But we'll get through it.
"I don't know whether we are bringing a half in or not but even if we don't, in [Adam] Clune, Cliff [Jake Clifford] and Phoenix [Crossland] - whoever it is - we've just got to give them the confidence. Build them up to be better players.
"Pearcey's talk on the field and even in fitness drills and stuff - he never stops. To be honest, it's pretty annoying some times because he doesn't shut up but it's something we are definitely going to miss. It's going to be a case of everyone now just stepping up."
Coming off his best season in the NRL this year, Saifiti kicked off pre-season training on Wednesday after a 10-week break determined to lay the groundwork to take his game to an even higher level in 2022.
"I want to do better, I don't want last season to be a fluke," he said. "It was my best year ever but I want to build on that and that starts with the pre-season. Hopefully, that'll show in round one."
On where he can find improvement, Saifiti said: "Probably in my defensive movements. When I did my reviews with my coaches, under fatigue like most forwards do, my movements get a bit slack being a big boy with my off-the-ground stuff.
"So, I'll be working on that and under fatigue, that will help my game a lot."
He says he doesn't have far to look for motivation, citing twin brother Daniel as his yardstick.
"With one of the premier props in the game being your brother, he's obviously someone good to look up to.
"I'm chasing him every day, whether it's in the gym, wrestle room or on the field. It's good healthy competition and it's definitely making me a better player.
"When he first made it [to Origin], I thought that's never going to be me. I was a different player and different person back then. The last couple of years with the footy I'm playing, I feel like I'm slowly catching up to him.
"Now, seeing him do it, I think it's a reachable goal for me. Seeing him every day, training, every day seeing what he does, it's definitely good motivation."
On his medal win, Saifiti said: "It's obviously the biggest achievement I've had in my career so far and something I'm very proud of."
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