Cogger ready to step up for Knights

Steve Zemek

Just three months after denying Jack Cogger an early release from his NRL contract, Nathan Brown has tasked the budding halfback with saving Newcastle's finals aspirations.

With Mitchell Pearce out for up to four months after undergoing surgery on a torn pec, Cogger has been told to own the No.7 jersey and the side.

The loss of Pearce - who leads the Dally M race after seven rounds - is a hammer blow for the young Knights side and could prove the death knell for their top eight hopes.

During the pre-season, Brown knocked back Cogger's request for an early release to join Canterbury, who he has signed with for 2019.

At the time, the Bulldogs were desperate for a foil for Kieran Foran however Brown wanted the 20-year-old to remain, believing he would prove valuable during their campaign.

And he's been vindicated with Cogger to partner Connor Watson during Friday's clash with Manly and he appears set to play a key role in their season.

"The key is when you go into games, you have to have faith and confidence that you can do well," Brown said.

"I'd like to to think the players have confidence in Coggs and I'd like to think he's been training three years for this game.

"He's played the last couple of years when he wasn't ready.

"I said that to him at the start of the year, I believe he is ready to play first-grade now. His opportunity has come through some misfortune for the club and Mitchell.

"But Jack's been working for three years now and his time has come to be a bit more of a dominant player."

Brown admitted the loss of former Sydney Roosters Pearce was a massive roadblock as they seek a return to the finals after a four-year absence and three straight wooden spoons.

"Mitchell, in all honesty, has been one of the form players of the competition," Brown said.

"He's come into a young side and led us really well.

"He's doing a great job for us and a big part of our team. Mitchell can still be a big part of our team."