|Newcastle Knights' five-eighth Jarrod Mullen.|
Mullen’s career in the NRL has hit somewhat of a standpoint over the last couple of years, with the Knights’ playmaker hampered by a string of injuries that have kept him on the sidelines just as much as he’s been on the field.
Last year, Mullen played just ten games for the Knights with Rick Stone and later Danny Buderus at the helm. While in 2014, Mullen made 16 appearances for the Knights in Wayne Bennett’s final year at the club. You have to go back to 2013 to find a time where Mullen played consistent football when he made 26 appearances as the Knights took themselves to a preliminary final.
In 2016 – and with a fourth coach in as many years – Mullen has been restricted to watching from the stands again after rupturing his hamstring tendon in round 8. All up, Mullen has made 10 appearances so far this season from a possible 20 games.
After tweaking his hamstring again in last week’s loss to Cronulla, Mullen will again be out for another two weeks. The disappointment and frustration on the Knights’ stalwart was there for all to see as he sat on the bench.
Furthermore, Mullen recently revealed on Fox Sports that he had considered retirement due to his on-going run of injuries.
A one-club player and home-grown talent, Mullen’s time at the Knights before the last couple of years had been fairly consistent. A respectable average of 19 appearances each year since his debut season in 2005, Mullen’s position within the team has been both unquestioned and uncontested across his career.
But with Newcastle’s strategy to invest in their youth, they have unearthed a potential replacement in the halves with the talented 18-year-old Jack Cogger. While still extremely young in today’s NRL ages, Cogger has emerged as a likely long-term option for the Knights into the future. He has made five handy appearances this year, looks to have a steady head on his shoulders, and appears unfazed about playing at the top-level of the game.
With an almost ready-to-go replacement, Nathan Brown could be forgiven for giving the injury-affected Mullen a tap on the shoulder to head across to the U.K.
Arguably easier competition for NRL players to participate in, Mullen would be relieved of the week-to-week rigors that comes with playing in Australia.
Questions of Mullen’s motivation to be involved in a re-build at the Knights that will likely be in the form of years rather than an off-season should also be raised.
Newcastle’s turnaround to become truly competitive again will be a while away yet, and having not achieved a great deal of success at the club, a move to a team in the Super League with a chance of achieving something might just be what the near-veteran could be looking for.
While often considered rugby league’s retirement home, the Super League is slowly beginning to bounce back to a competitive and interesting competition. A move for Mullen should not be considered a step-back in his career, rather a next step – because sometimes a change is as good as a holiday.
In all likely-hood, Mullen will probably go around again at the Knights next year before considering his options beyond 2017. A tremendous custodian at the club for over a decade, he will want to – and possibly deserves to – leave on his own terms. Jack Cogger may yet need more time to develop in the lower leagues, leaving Mullen another year to finish in his own style.