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Mullen ready to step up again

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be bringing you some exclusives from inside the Country camp in the lead up to the Country vs City Origin clash, this year being played in Albury. I’ll be down in camp with the side for the week before, and will be giving Who’s Playing Who? readers and listeners the big news as the build up to Origin 2011 continues. Jarrod Mullen is the topic of the first story, so read on below……

It’s taken a bit of time, and some shuffling around him, but Jarrod Mullen may have found his place at Newcastle. The Knights half, who debuted for Newcastle as an 18-year-old, has played one Origin game back in 2007, but is part of the large group of halves shafted by NSW during Queensland’s dominance of State of Origin.

But after a few years falling under the burden of Newcastle’s main man, Mullen has finally stepped up and showed the potential that has been there all along. A chance halves partnering with Knights Captain Kurt Gidley has sprung Mullen to life, and has plenty of people asking about his Origin chances.

Newcastle Coach Rick Stone endorsed both Mullen and Gidley for NSW selection, saying both men are ready for it.

“I think both boys are definitely ready for it,” Stone said.

“To be an Origin player you’ve got to be a real strong defender and I think ‘Mullo’ has found that in his game particularly this year. Kurt has always had that.”

Mullen himself knows of the pressure that can bring a rookie down in Origin football, having played his only game in the cauldron that is a packed Suncorp Stadium.

But it was the determination to erase those memories of Suncorp and replace them with NSW victories that is spurring him on this year.

“I told myself I won’t play that badly again this season,” Mullen said of his performance against the Broncos last Monday.

“I thought I had a terrible game and I knew exactly why. I prepared poorly for it and my head just wasn’t in the game up there that night. I paid the penalty for it.”

“No-one has higher expectations of me than I do and I promised myself I wouldn’t let it happen again.”

Mullen’s Origin audition starts with the annual Country vs City Origin clash at Lavington Sports Ground on May 6th. Should he be picked, he will most likely be up against Roosters half Mitchell Pearce, a man who knows all too well about being thrown in the Origin deep end, and form Bulldogs half Trent Hodkinson.

In what is shaping to be a massive game for all players involved, Mullen will be out to erase the demons of 2007, and take up a place in the vacant NSW halves with a big performance. With Gidley, depending upon Kangaroos selection, possibly beside him, Mullen could have the inside running to grab a spot.

The match, which is shaping as a true State of Origin trial, will be played at Lavington Sports Ground on May 6th, concluding a massive week in Albury celebrating rugby league at its grass roots.

The week includes coaching clinics and player appearances, including a Mayoral Reception in Albury’s QEII Square on Wednesday May 4th, where both teams will be presented and mix with fans young and old.

To ensure you don’t miss out on your chance to see the game grab your tickets through Ticketek on 132 849, at Ticketek outlets or online at http://www.ticketek.com.au.

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