Mullen firms as NSW halfbacks flop - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mullen firms as NSW halfbacks flop

By Steve Jancetic 13/05/2007 07:17:15 PM Comments (0)

Newcastle youngster Jarrod Mullen is firming as favourite to wear the NSW No.7 jumper in the State of Origin opener following a weekend where none of the leading candidates did themselves any favours.

Selectors are seriously considering taking a punt on the talented 20-year-old despite his inexperience - Mullen has only five games under his belt as Newcastle's first choice halfback following the retirement of Andrew Johns.

But with rivals Brett Kimmorley, Matt Orford and Craig Gower all failing to put their hands up over the weekend, Blues selectors may be left with little choice but to go with Mullen alongside five-eighth Braith Anasta in the halves.

Even club coach Brian Smith, who only last week expressed reservations over Mullen's readiness for Origin football, admitted his young protege was up to the task.

"If the selectors feel that they don't have total confidence in any of the other halfback contenders, Jarrod Mullen may well handle it," Smith told ABC radio.

"He's got the right temperament, physically in terms of his body composition, he's a very solid defender ... he's definitely not afraid to take the ball to the line - that was a significant factor in us getting that win last night (over New Zealand Warriors).

"He's got all those credentials and if they see fit to put him in ... he could do very well."

Mullen was outshone by teammate Kurt Gidley as the Knights stormed back from 18-6 down to beat the Warriors 24-18, though Smith said he wouldn't like to see Gidley and Mullen partnered at the scrumbase for the Blues.

"I think Kurt would be the ideal player coming of the bench," Smith said.

It's a berth he all but nailed down with his man of the match performance against the Warriors, Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah likely to be the unlucky player to miss out.

"I'd like to think so but I don't think so," Tigers coach Tim Sheens said of Farah's selection chances.

"I don't think he'll get the first one, I'll be surprised.

"I think looking at Gidley, his ability to play in a number of positions will probably squeeze him out."

Sydney Roosters coach Chris Anderson gave the Anasta-Brett Kimmorley halves combination his tick of approval, that partnership likely to be favoured should Blues selectors be keen on the safe option.

Anderson was critical of Anasta's performance in a winning side - despite Anasta playing a leading role in two of the Roosters' four tries - but was confident he would work well alongside Kimmorley.

"I think they'd gel together well - Braith's got good instincts and Noddy can run the team, it will free Braith up to do his own thing," Anderson said.

"He's that sort of player, Braith, he's got some mistakes in him but he's a player that when you're playing good he's just got great instincts for the game, he's always trying to make things happen."

Penrith officials were confident Gower would be right to play for the Blues if selected after he was forced from the field midway through the first half of Saturday night's 22-12 win over North Queensland with a hamstring strain.

The battle for the final spot on the bench could be decided on Monday night with Melbourne forwards Ryan Hoffman and Brett White making their final play against the Bulldogs at Olympic Park.

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