THROUGHOUT his NRL career, Jarrod Mullen has made a habit of proving the medical experts wrong.
The Newcastle playmaker prides himself on being a “quick healer” who has routinely returned from injuries and surgery ahead of schedule.
He wouldn’t have lasted 211 games in the NRL without ingrained resilience.
As he explained in his Newcastle Herald column earlier this year: “Looking back over 12 seasons in the NRL, I’ve probably had six or seven surgeries.
“A broken bone in my foot, broken hand, wrist, both shoulders, a knee cleanout …it’s never much fun.’’
This time last year, he was recovering from an operation to repair the medial sesamoid bone in the ball of his right foot, after which his specialist warned him: “Look, there’s a chance you may not play again. That’s the reality of it’.”
As usual, he pushed through the pain barrier and was back for the 2016 season-opener.
Twelve months down the track, the 29-year-old must be experiencing a sense of deja vu. And this time his real dilemma might not be the twice-repaired hamstring that let him down again last week, but the self-doubt lurking in the back of his mind.
“Just another mental hurdle,’’ Mullen said, adding that the recurrence was “nowhere near as bad as last time’’.
At least there is no rush to get him back on the field. Season 2017 does not kick off for another three months.
But the worry for Mullen must be that two operations, countless hours of physiotherapy and numerous consultations with doctors do not appear to have fixed his problem.
Last week’s setback, which apparently occurred during a relatively innocuous ball-work session, means he is back to square one, and it is not only the troublesome tendon that needs attention, but presumably his confidence. Reassuringly, he was back at training on Wednesday, jogging lightly, and the club’s training staff are optimistic he will be able to up the ante in the near future.
“Because of his history we’re not wanting to rush him, but next week he’ll be back into the main group and doing some skills sessions,” Newcastle’s high-performance manager Tony Ayoub told the club’s website.
“Within the next couple of weeks, depending on his progress, we will hopefully see him back into the main group on a full-time basis.
“From there, it will be about managing him because of age and his history.”
Knights fans can only hope Mullen’s luck turns soon. As the club’s most experienced player, he has a key role to play in their rebuilding operation.