Mullen to captain Knights in Nines

January 20, 2015 13:07:29 UK

Newcastle Knights are prepared to risk Jarrod Mullen in the Auckland Nines, with coach Rick Stone naming him as captain for the tournament.

Rules of the tournament force every team to play at least one of their top five contracted players, and the Knights, who are 8.00 outright, have opted for Mullen.

That’s despite him having suffered a badly torn hamstring in the event last year, an injury that kept him out of the first five rounds of the NRL season.

The star playmaker has been named in a Newcastle squad that also includes young Kangaroos winger Sione Mata’utia.

Stone said: “There is a bit of trepidation there I guess because it was a significant injury last year with Jarrod and a decent jolt for the club to lose him for the start of the competition. But we are obliged to play at least one of our top five contracted players and I consider him the most ready.

“It was going to be either Jarrod or Kurt (Gidley) and we’ve decided not to take Kurt. Jarrod really wants to play so it’s a matter of making sure we manage his time and loads in games a bit better than we did last season.”

Mullen is happy to see Mata’utia, who became Australia’s youngest international when he played in the Four Nations tournament last year, joining him in the squad for the two-day event starting on 31st January.

“I can’t wait to see how Sione goes in his second year. Obviously he earned a Test jersey, and he’s showing no signs of second year syndrome so I think he’s going to be really exciting for us,” the skipper said.

Stone’s squad also includes noted speedsters Dane Gagai, Nathan Ross and Jake Mamo.

The Knights, who are 26.00 to win the NRL grand final, face the Dragons, Eels and Sea Eagles in the Auckland Nines group stage.

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