Some say he has more pressure than any other player in the NRL. Newcastle Knights halfback Jarrod Mullen not only has to fill the shoes of Andrew Johns; but he carries the hopes of the Newcastle people – people torn by infighting and unrest at the Knights in 2007.
A natural talent, Mullen has developed quickly at the Knights and the timing of the Johns departure certainly hasn’t hindered this future star. He slipped into NSW Origin honours with ease in 2007 and he seems to handle pressure much better than those ahead of him. Even with additional heat put on him by coach Brian Smith during the selection period for Origin with claims of “Mullen’s not ready for Origin yet” and the on-going battle with injury last year – Mullen’s performances and his handling of pressure was impressive.
It seems that at the core of the Jarrod Mullen machine, is a consistent and driven work ethic. While gifted with all the silky skills required for big time NRL, Mullen isn’t one to cut corners. In a much similar way to Andrew and Matthew Johns, Mullen will get to training hours before the scheduled start time and begin his own drills and training and you guessed it – he is usually the last to leave when the team clocks off.
As NRL Rugby League is now a full time profession, you could understand the fact that players would be ready to head home after hours upon hours of gym, cross-training and skills work – they are living and breathing NRL 24/7 and most of the players would be eager to get some time away from their full time job.
Extra sessions, additional video homework and the reels of information garnered from guys like Joey Johns are part and parcel of the Mullen machine. It shows why Mullen is so valuable to the Knights not only in 2008 but as the rock to build their future on. New signings to the club for 2008 have been blown away by the work ethic of Mullen, new boys Ben Cross and Wes Naiqama have both claimed to be spurred on by the drive of Mullen.
Preparation and inspiration for this years season has come from months on the sidelines in late 2007; Mullen helplessly watching injured as his Knights teammates were belted week in week out. To compound the matter, the media spotlight on Newcastle and the ensuing drama involving Brian Smith and Kirk Reynoldson – only stood to further rip at the bond the Knights players had built together.
Mullen could be just the answer to the Knights woes. There is sure to be plenty of pressure heaped on the upcoming half as Newcastle look to him to spark things this year. As they have done for so many years, the Knights will look to the number 7 when the chips are down. Fortunately for Mullen, he seems to crave the pressure situations – already in his young career he has regularly taken the right option at critical times and certainly hasn’t shyed away when the game was on the line.
So as the Knights dig deep in their current pre-season, eager to bury the demons of 2007 – there’s no need to worry about Jarrod Mullen. The young half is seemingly able to put the pressure to one side and through his hard work, continues to rise to the top of the NRL ranks. All in a days work it seems, or should we say a days fun?