Jack Cogger won’t officially “come of age” for anotherthree months but has been told the Newcastle Knights isnow “his team” in a massive show of faithas the club deals with the loss of marquee playmaker Mitchell Pearce.
Knights coach Nathan Brown pulled Cogger aside after training on Tuesday to encourage him to take ownership of the team with the Bulldogs-bound No.7 set to partner Connor Watson in the halvesin the absence of Pearce against Manly on Friday night at Brookvale.
“I’ve got the utmost faith and confidence in Jack and so has his teammates and that’s what I said to himout there,” Brown told the Newcastle Herald.
“It is up to Jack now to believe in himself. Put a bit of faith in himself and really assert himself on the field. Themore confident Jack is, the more confident the team will be.”
Hands on the ball: Jack Cogger has been named halfback of the Knights for Friday night’s clash against Manly. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.
Cogger does not turn 21 until August and last Saturday night’s 22-20 victoryover the Wests Tigers was his first win at NRL level in nine appearances in the top grade over the past three years.
But Brown is banking on the experience he has gained running the show at NSW Cup level to stand him in good stead against the Sea Eagles.
“It is something he can do. He’s been running the reserve grade quite well now for the past 12 to 18 months and whilehe is going to be talkingto a higher profile-type player, he has been working hard on it.”
Knights centre Nathan Ross has no doubts Cogger will rise to the occasion.
“It’s obviouslya huge blow for us to lose the calibre of player that Mitchell is because he’s the type of player that comes up with the right plays at the right time,” he said.
“But when one door closes, another opens and it’s a good opportunity for Jack Cogger to step up.
“He just needs to have the confidence to take charge and make sure when he wants the ball, he gets it.”
Ross revealed the reason why teammates refer to Cogger as “Business”.
“He’s just meticulous with everything he does from taking notes on everything to making sure everything is in proper order,” he said.
“He’s just down to business all the time. He is very methodical in everything he does. He’s perfect and I know he is going to prepare right and come into this game with the team having a lot of faith in everything he does.”
Watson’s return, after therewere initial fears he may need surgery after picking up a shoulder injury in the round 3 loss toSydney Roosters, could not have come at abetter time.
Experienced backrower Aidan Guerra will co-captain the side in the absence of Pearce.