Mitchell Pearce insists the Sydney Roosters can "absolutely" be an NRL title force in 2016 after breathing life into their flagging campaign with an inspired return from his drunken Australia Day antics.
Playing his first match of the year following an eight-match suspension, Pearce guided the Roosters to a crushing - and desperately needed - 38-0 victory over Newcastle at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
Pearce received a standing ovation after having a hand or foot in three of his side's six tries and scoring one himself to help drag the Roosters off the bottom of the ladder, above the hapless Knights, with just their second win from nine starts.
"I know how to play footy and it was just good to get back out there and rip in with my mates because being on the sidelines has been hurting me big time," Pearce said.
"I just wanted to get out there and play well and do my thing."
As did coach Trent Robinson, who said having his little general back allowed his teammates - chiefly five-eighth Jackson Hastings - to flourish.
"It felt like having Mitchell back there allowed a lot more of the players to play their roles," Robinson said.
"Jacko, I thought, played really well in his natural role.
"We had our conductor back and it allowed us to move around freely around him."
Only two teams in the NRL's 18-year era have made the finals after winning just one of their first eight games but Pearce is adamant the Roosters can be the third.
"Absolutely. I'm certainly confident about that," he said.