Finals the key for Mullen: Smith - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Finals the key for Mullen: Smith

By Steve Jancetic 10/07/2009 06:38:26 PM Comments (0)

Newcastle coach Brian Smith says a return to the NRL finals could be the catalyst for Jarrod Mullen's resurrection as a representative player.

The Knights playmaker was again overlooked for the Origin series finale in Brisbane on Wednesday night.

The 22-year-old, who played one game for the Blues in 2007, was on the cusp of selection but came up short this year despite the Blues trotting out three different combinations throughout the series.

Smith claimed the Origin snub did little to tarnish his opinion of Mullen, but admitted some finals success would likely do his future representative chances a world of good with the Knights having not made the playoffs since 2006.

"Jarrod's had a good season - he's like our team," Smith said.

"He's in a position where if we can finish the season off strongly, then his reputation and his experience level at directing a team under pressure - trying to make playoffs and hopefully playing in playoff situations - that's only going to improve his credentials for the future."

Mullen will go up against Terry Campese - the man who denied him an Origin jumper for game one of the series - when the Knights host Canberra on Saturday night.

It's a vital clash for both sides, the Knights a chance to drop out of the top eight with a loss while defeat would all but eliminate the Raiders from the finals equation.

Smith said the Knights were still eyeing off a top four finish but he was wary of a Raiders side eyeing off a late season charge similar to the one that propelled them to a sixth spot finish in 2008.

"They were looking down the barrel of their season a few weeks ago - they were down 20-0 to Manly and they did something about it and nearly got that game back again," Smith said.

"Since then they've beaten Melbourne and they beat the Gold Coast so they're in pretty good form at the moment."

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