KNIGHTS playmaker Jarrod Mullen has welcomed the chance to demonstrate his leadership credentials in the absence of wounded generals Kurt Gidley and Danny Buderus.
Gidley will have scans today to determine the extent of damage to his left shoulder, which he dislocated while tackling former Knights teammate Clint Newton at Hunter Stadium on Monday night, but the captain is preparing for the likelihood of season-ending reconstructive surgery.
Buderus, Gidley’s regular deputy, was told yesterday that he would be sidelined for three to four weeks due to Achilles tendonitis, ruling the 34-year-old former NSW and Australian skipper out of selection contention for the State of Origin series-opener in Melbourne on May 23.
Though scans have cleared Buderus of a torn right Achilles, the tendon is still significantly inflamed and Knights medical staff do not expect it to settle in time for him to play again before their home game against the Gold Coast Titans on May 26.
Buderus has been ruled out of Newcastle’s game against the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Sunday, he will miss the home game against the Cowboys on May 12, and the Knights have a bye in round 11 (May 18-21).
NSW coach Ricky Stuart and selectors will announce their team for Origin I the day after the Knights host the Cowboys, and are now deliberating among incumbent Michael Ennis, Wests Tigers skipper Robbie Farah or Melbourne utility Ryan Hinchcliffe to wear the No.9 jersey.
“The positive is the scans showed no tear and it is a matter of now managing the tendonitis,” Knights high-performance manager Jeremy Hickmans said in a statement issued by the club.
“With a break from training and playing, Danny is hopeful to return after the bye.”
Buderus, who had been named to captain the Knights on Sunday, will be replaced at hooker by utility forward Matt Hilder.
Knights coach Wayne Bennett is yet to name a replacement bench forward, but is understood to be weighing up the merits of Adam Cuthbertson and Richie Fa’aoso.
Mullen, centre Wes Naiqama and second-rower Chris Houston are among the new captaincy contenders.
It is understood Bennett will make the decision on his new skipper at training today.
With or without the formal title of captain, Mullen, 25, is looking forward to taking on additional leadership responsibilities.
‘‘Oh, definitely ... I suppose I’ve got to talk a lot more,’’ Mullen, a veteran of 129 NRL games, said.
‘‘I take a back seat when they’re there, and let them sort of control everything, so there’s a fair bit more responsibility on my shoulders definitely.
‘‘I’ve been here for a few years now obviously, and I do take a bit of ownership on the team, so with those two boys out, hopefully I can take a bit more on my shoulders.’’
Mullen said the Knights would not allow the absence of Gidley and Buderus, who both attended training at Mayfield yesterday, to excuse poor showings without them.
‘‘Obviously Gids is down,’’ Mullen said.
‘‘We still don’t know what the result is there but it’s looking like a reco, so that’s very bad news for the skipper. Bedsy’s not as bad as what they first thought but he still might be a couple of weeks.
‘‘But we’ve got good players to come in and fill their positions, and we’re not making excuses for the games coming up when those boys aren’t there.’’
Mullen will try to guide Gidley’s halfback replacement, Tyrone Roberts, who partnered him against the Dragons and Eels last month while Gidley was sidelined with torn knee cartilage.
‘‘I’ve just got to get my hands on the ball a lot more, especially with Gids out now,’’ Mullen said.
‘‘I’ve got to take a lot more ownership there.
‘‘I’m not going to overplay my hand there at five-eighth. It’s more of a sit-back-and-wait sort of a role, whereas at halfback you’re more hands on there, so I’ll let ‘T’ do his work and hopefully I can get the ball in my hands when I want it.
‘‘We worked pretty closely in pre-season together, me and T, so any time he’s asked me to help him out with anything, I’ve been more than willing to help him.
‘‘If Gids is out for the full year ... T’s going to have to really put his stamp on there at halfback for the team, and that’s going to help everyone else around him.’’