Back to the future for 2015 Knights
Can you taste it Newcastle? You know, that local twang returning to the Hunter? Veteran five-eighth Jarrod Mullen can and he believes it will only benefit the Knights this season.
As the Knights gear up to play the Warriors at Hunter Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Mullen said it was important the club reconnected with the local community in order to be successful.
In the post-Wayne Bennett era, former assistant coach Rick Stone has picked up the clipboard once again. Stone's promotion has coincided with the return to the club of Danny Buderus and Craig Sandercock as assistant coaches and Michael Hagan as director of football, helping the Knights recapture their Newcastle spirit along the way.
"It's really good to have Rick back because it has brought back this really good Newcastle feel, especially with Danny Buderus there and Craig Sandercock coming back. It has been really relaxing at training and everyone has done well off the back of it," Mullen told NRL.com.
"You could tell at our members launch that our fans all came out in force and showed their support. I think plenty of Novocastrians have really been able to get behind the team over the pre-season and they're playing their part in trying to get the Newcastle feel back to the club."
With nine of their first 14 games of the season being played at Hunter Stadium, Mullen said support from Knights fans would be vital as the club looks to make a flying start to their campaign – and avoid a repeat of their horror start to the 2014 season where they lost 11 of their first 13 matches.
"It goes without saying but [our fans] are massive for us," he said.
"We wouldn't be where we are without them. We wouldn't be out training on the field and doing the hard yards if it wasn't for them. They pay to come and watch us play and we want to put on a good show for them and win plenty more games.
"If you're winning games at home and then winning a lot away then the fans are going to come and watch you play. It definitely makes you play better too when the fans are out in force."
Unlike 12 months ago when a hamstring injury rubbed him out for the first five rounds, Mullen is champing at the bit to begin the season.
When Stone was head coach of the Knights between 2009 and 2011, he encouraged Mullen to throw it out to the three-quarters early on in sets, with the likes of Cooper Vuna, Wes Naiqama, Keith Lulia, Junior Sa'u and club great Adam McDougall usually coming up with positive results.
According to Mullen, there is no reason why Newcastle can't revive those old game plans with Joey Leilua and Dane Gagai quickly becoming two of the best young centres in the game and veteran wingers James McManus and Akuila Uate accustomed to the Knights' old freewheeling style.
"We have good strike out wide so there is no reason why we can't give them early ball and let them do their stuff. There is obviously a time and place for that but we'll see how it all pans out in the first couple of rounds and go from there," Mullen said.
"I've learnt I think to be a bit more composed over the break when I'm playing too and as I'm getting older I suppose I'm getting a bit wiser when it comes to controlling the team which can only be positive."