Mixed emotions for Mullen's 200th
He played a starring role in his 200th NRL game, but it wasn't enough for Jarrod Mullen to be completely satisfied with Newcastle's 24-all draw with the Raiders at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.
The Knights fought back from 16-0 down to go ahead 24-18 with nine minutes remaining, with Mullen having a hand in three of his side's four tries. Yet the end result – a draw after extra-time – left a sour taste in the veteran five-eighth's mouth after a tough 90-minute display.
"You know what, even though it's a good feeling, it's still a little bit disappointing that we only came away with the draw when we had it in the bag and gave away that lead with five minutes to go," Mullen said.
"The boys showed a lot more fight this week which was pleasing and we'll need that at the start of every game moving forward to keep us in it. It was a good fight.
"It was a pretty memorable game. First home game here for the season, I couldn't have asked for a better day except for the win."
Knights coach Nathan Brown applauded the 28-year-old's performance, and it as an example for his inexperienced squad to strive toward.
"It was by far Mullo's best performance. Just watching him compete hard was great. If we keep getting people competing like that, and Mullo competing like that, straight away it's going to give you a good chance," Brown said.
"There are obviously some defensive things we can do a lot better and with our execution but until you get really good consistent effort and a group of blokes who want to fight hard, you don't have a team.
"To see that is something we can move forward with, which is great."
Newcastle's halves exhibited glimpses of the combination the club hoped for when NSW halfback Trent Hodkinson was signed at the end of 2015. Mullen at times thrived in his newfound roaming role while co-captain Hodkinson focused on steering the ship.
"I'm getting my hands on the ball a lot more and I've been a lot more involved. I'm a bit more buggered now which is good," Mullen laughed.
"I love that Hokko runs the team and I'm able to just run around and get my hands on the ball. It's a relief to be able to do that and [Hokko and I] can just build off that.
"[Our partnership] is coming along. It was always going to take a little bit of time but we also need to click a lot quicker and it's something we can look towards building throughout the season."