Mullen injury puts Knights on back foot
THE hamstring injury that will sideline Knights field marshal Jarrod Mullen until mid-season will have no impact on his prospects of signing a new long-term deal with the club.
Mullen will see a surgeon in Sydney on Monday to discuss the likelihood of a procedure to have his torn left hamstring reattached, which would rule him out for up to four months.
The Knights said scans confirmed an ‘‘avulsion’’, which is defined as forcibly tearing away by trauma or surgery, meaning Mullen has partially or completely torn his hamstring off the bone.
The loss of their primary playmaker for at least the first half of the season is a devastating blow to Newcastle’s hopes of challenging for the 2014 NRL title and ends any hope of the 26-year-old pivot staking a claim for the NSW No.6 jersey in this year’s State of Origin series.
He would miss the first 14 rounds of the season if he was sidelined for four months.
Mullen, who sustained the injury in the quarter-finals of the Auckland Nines tournament at Eden Park on Sunday, is off contract at the end of this season.
His manager, Steve Gillis, told the Newcastle Herald yesterday that ‘‘nothing changes’’ and negotiations were continuing.
‘‘This won’t make any difference to our position,’’ Gillis said. ‘‘We’ll just continue to talk to the club, and hopefully all goes well and he plays out his career at the Knights, but that’s still a fair way down the track. The main thing is we get him right, get him fixed, get him back together and get him out there again.’’
Mullen, who has played 171 games since his NRL debut as an 18-year-old in 2005, reportedly knocked back an offer to re-sign with the Knights late last year to test the open market, but Gillis would not comment when asked if he had discussed Mullen with rival clubs.
‘‘The negotiations with the Knights so far have been good, the lines of communication are open and it’s business as usual. Nothing changes,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve always said the club’s been very good to him, he’s grown up there, and we’ll obviously give them every opportunity to retain him, so I don’t think this injury makes any difference in any way, shape or form to where he’s at.
‘‘Players get injured all the time and bodies heal.
‘‘He’ll obviously work hard on the injury and get back as quick as he can, and I would presume with the professionalism that he’s always shown he’ll get back ahead of schedule, so we’ll see how it goes and take it from there.
‘‘He’ll be back hopefully prior to mid-season and show everyone what he can do.’’
A Knights source told the Herald Mullen’s form at the nines before he was injured indicated he had picked up from where he left off last season, the most consistent and complete of his nine-year career, and the club was keen to re-sign him as soon as possible.
Having secured halfback Tyrone Roberts until the end of 2016, the Knights hope to build a premiership-winning team around the scrum-base pairing of Mullen and Roberts.
Mullen, who has played more than 20 games a season for the past six years, was devastated when told how serious his injury was.
‘‘Obviously I was only hoping for a couple of weeks, but it looks like it’s come back a bit worse than that,’’ Mullen said in an interview on the Knights website.
‘‘I’ve got to go down to Sydney and see the surgeon on Monday and he’s going to go in and have a look and see if it needs repairing because you can’t really tell on the scan, but it’s either partially torn or fully torn off, so it’s not good news.’’
Mullen played 26 of a possible 27 games for the Knights last season, leading the NRL in total kicks (426) and kicking metres (13,625).
He finished equal fifth in Dally M Medal voting, and he and premiership-winning Roosters and NSW halves James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce led the NRL in try assists with 25 each.
In the absence of injured skipper Kurt Gidley at various stages last season, Mullen captained the Knights and steered them within a game of the grand final.
Gidley and Hull Kingston Rovers recruit Michael Dobson are the likely contenders to partner Roberts in the halves until Mullen returns, and Dobson will start at five-eighth against former club Canberra in a trial at Tamworth on Saturday night.
‘‘The way we’ve rallied around Gids and players that have been injured in the past, it’s pretty inspiring, so hopefully the boys can rally around me,’’ Mullen said.
‘‘It’s obviously not the best feeling at the moment, but hopefully I get in there and get it done and it’s not as bad as what they think and I’m back sooner rather than later.
‘‘We’ve signed Michael Dobson from overseas, and he played some great footy over there, so hopefully they can win a few games…’’
● Star recruit Jamie Soward could miss Penrith’s season opener against the Knights on March 8 after he rolled his ankle at training yesterday. Soward left in a moon boot and will have scans today.
HOBBLED: Jarrod Mullen playing against the Gold Coast at the Auckland Nines last weekend. Picture: Getty Images