Mullen eye injury adds to Knights' problems

COACH Wayne Bennett is embarrassed.

Punters, and even some of their own supporters and members, have bailed.

Now the Knights are sweating on a medical report on general Jarrod Mullen, who will have scans today to rule out a possible fractured eye socket suffered during their disastrous 24-14 loss to Gold Coast at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night.

Mullen took a knock to the head shortly before half-time but continued until he was replaced in the final minutes when the game was out of reach.

Already without captain Kurt Gidley for the rest of the year following shoulder surgery, and with back-up pivot Ryan Stig out indefinitely due to a blood clot in the eye, the Knights can ill afford to lose their primary playmaker for an extended period as they try to pull out of their tailspin.

Stand-in skipper Danny Buderus was replaced early in the second half after being concussed but he is expected to be available for the game against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.

The loss to the Titans was Newcastle’s third straight and fourth from six games at home, leaving them 11th on the ladder with just four wins from 11 matches.

The only teams the Knights have beaten at Hunter Stadium this season are the Panthers and Eels, who are running second-last and last.

The Knights have 17,496 ticketed members but attracted a crowd of only 15,792 on Saturday night – their lowest this season – and players were greeted by a few boos and some moans and groans as they trudged off the field.

‘‘They can get impatient as much as they like but it’s not going to help anybody. There’s no one more impatient than myself, and I’m embarrassed,’’ Bennett said of the fans’ reaction.

‘‘I’m embarrassed with the way we’re playing, but if we could just wave a magic wand and get it right, well, we’d do that, but it’s not going to happen.

‘‘I understand their frustration, but it’s no greater than mine or those that are close to the team, and there’s no one else who can do it for us ...

‘‘We’ve just got to stay at it because that’s the only way it’s going to turn around. It’s not going to turn around by thinking there’s an easier way to win football games.

‘‘Other teams have got a fair bit of confidence playing us at the moment, because they know we’re down a little and not playing well.

‘‘You can turn it around. It’s just a matter of when for us.

‘‘The game’s that simple. We’re just making it complex right now.’’

Equal $8 title favourites in February, the Knights are now rated by TAB Sportsbet as a $51 chance of winning the premiership.

After beating Penrith 34-14 four weeks ago, they were paying $151 to have the most losses but they had firmed to $26 before losing to the Titans, and will be among the favourites at $13 when that market reopens tomorrow.

Bennett could not fathom the Knights’ lack of intensity on Saturday, particularly at home.

‘‘Yeah, probably it is,’’ Bennett said, when asked if the loss to the Titans had been the most disappointing on his watch.

‘‘You hope that by week 10, or game 11 or whatever we’re into, you start to win a few battles, but we just went backwards tonight. That’s the part that disappoints me.

‘‘We got sloppy, more in defence than anything else. There was no intensity in our defence all night and as a result we kind of got run over and missed tackles that became very expensive.

‘‘They keep taking me back to square one all the time. I think we’re getting ahead a little bit, and our ball control was certainly better in the first half, but we gave up three tries that just shouldn’t happen at our level.

‘‘They didn’t put any great plays on us or anything to get the tries – they didn’t have to work real hard for those points – and that’s the disappointing part. They didn’t throw great shape at us or something that bamboozled us and made us second-guess ourselves.’’

As he has done since their first-round extra-time loss to the Dragons, Bennett urged supporters to stick solid and trust him and the processes he has put in place.

Though he has won seven premierships with the Broncos and Dragons and is regarded as the best coach in the game’s history, Bennett has coached virtually non-stop since his career began at Ipswich in 1976, and he explained he has endured his share of tough times.

‘‘The bad news is I’ve been here before,’’ he said.

‘‘I know what’s in front of me. I know how to handle what I’ve got at the moment.

‘‘My coaching career has been long. A lot of people forget where I came from.

‘‘They look at the results but there’s been a lot of indifferent stuff over a long period of time, but at the end of the day I always get to where I want to go, and it won’t be any different here. We’ll get there.’’

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