Griffin: Barba up to aerial assault
Brisbane Broncos coach Anthony Griffin has placed his full faith in Ben Barba being able to handle any aerial assault launched by Knights five-eighth Jarrod Mullen on Friday night.
Barba heads into the clash with Newcastle on the back of a horror night under the high ball against the Titans last Friday and with one of the best kickers of the football in his second game back from a hamstring injury zeroing in on a potential target.
In 2013 Mullen put in more than 13 kilometres worth of kicks as the Knights stormed to an unlikely Preliminary Final appearance and in his first game for 2014 last weekend kicked for 617.4 metres against the Raiders, the second highest figure of any kicker so far this season.
Five of his 17 kicks last Saturday were bombs or cross-field kicks and he is sure to test the mettle of Barba early on after the 2012 Dally M Medal winner looked gun-shy under Albert Kelly's towering torpedo bombs on the Gold Coast.
Following that performance Barba told The Courier-Mail that he was facing a stint in the Intrust Super Cup if his form didn't improve but Griffin insists that their star recruit is doing all that is being asked of him.
"You're going to have tough times in your career, particularly when you play fullback in the modern game with the amount of high balls you've got to cover," Griffin said, rejecting any suggestion that he was concerned at all with Barba's form. "He's going all right; he's had a good week.
"The guys around him can help him a bit more there as well but he's doing everything I want him to do.
"Obviously he's a hard marker on himself and he's had a couple of things that haven't gone his way but there are no worries about him, he'll be fine.
"He's just a member of our side that's got to do his job and that's the main focus he's got to have this week."
While the return of Mullen was well-timed for a Newcastle team that has been unable to string together successive wins for the first six weeks of the season, Griffin is wary of a Knights playmaking quartet that is bursting with representative honours.
Captain Kurt Gidley has settled into his new permanent home at hooker, half Tyrone Roberts continues to grow in confidence while fullback Darius Boyd ran for 144 metres last week against the Raiders having returned early from a hamstring tear suffered in Round 1.
"I think both of their halves are great halves. Jarrod Mullen has been around for a long, long time now and played a lot of semi-final football and Origin football, he's a real key for them," said Griffin, who will take utility Jake Granville to Newcastle as a possible option on the bench.
"They've got Gidley and Mullen and Boyd at the back who are all Origin players and they have got really good outside backs as well with [Joey] Leilua, [Dane] Gagai, and [James] McManus so they've got a heap of strike.
"They went within a game of playing in the grand final last year and they're in pretty good form at the moment so it's going to be a real good test for us."