PERMANENT POSITION: Knights playmaker Jarrod Mullen. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
IT has taken just two games for Knights coach Wayne Bennett to settle on Jarrod Mullen as his five-eighth.
Having rotated regularly between halfback and pivot since his NRL debut in 2005, Mullen appears set to wear the No.6 jersey permanently, allowing skipper Kurt Gidley to assume the first-receiver duties.
Mullen started the year at halfback but Bennett moved him wider of the ruck in the 20-6 win against Canterbury on March 25, in which he scored a try and collected a host of man-of-the-match awards.
The 24-year-old followed that with another classy display in Friday night’s 34-22 loss to Melbourne, scoring a try and creating two for winger James McManus with pinpoint cross-field kicks.
‘‘I thought Jarrod Mullen was very good,’’ Bennett said.
‘‘He put in a couple of kicks for tries, he penetrated them, worried them all night.
‘‘He scored a great running try ... I don’t think there’s much doubt Mullen has proven to us five-eighth is his position. He was good last week and he was good [against Melbourne].’’
Bennett was equally delighted with the contributions of James McManus, whose form this season has matched that of his more celebrated wing partner, Akuila Uate.
‘‘He was among a host of guys I thought played really well for us,’’ Bennett said.
‘‘He was tremendous.’’
McManus’s two tries gave him four for the season, the most by any Knight.
He carried the ball 109metres in attack and made four tackles without any lapses.
Like Mullen, McManus is a one-game Origin wonder.
Mullen’s lone interstate appearance was in game one in 2007.
McManus played in the 2009 series opener.
Both players were injured soon after their NSW debuts and have not been required since.
That situation could change soon.
At the least, both appear to be strong contenders for the Country Origin team to play City in Mudgee on April 22.
Though Bennett was happy to tout veteran hooker Danny Buderus as an Origin chance last week, he did not want to speculate on behalf of Mullen and McManus.
‘‘I don’t want to talk about Origin tonight,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a little bit further down the track.’’