Newcastle Knights’ assistant coach Craig Sandercock and head coach Rick Stone have joined forces to talk through the Knights’ plan heading into their match against the Canberra Raiders on Friday night.
According the pair, the team is doggedly determined to make up for its Round 13 loss, which was the last time the sides met at Hunter Stadium.
“Our performance last time against Canberra wasn’t our best and was probably one of our worst this year,” Stone conceded
“The Raiders played a really good game in that particular game and controlled the ball great.
“They had a lot of good performers right across the board.
“They are a dangerous footy team particularly at home and at night so it will be a decent test for us."
But this week presents a positive scenario for the coaches with a number of injured players set to boost the red and blue ranks.
“We’ve named what we think is a pretty strong side and have a few guys back,” Sandercock said.
Stone added, “Kade Snowden and Dave Fa’alogo should be okay to play as well.
“Those two boys have been out a little bit with Kade on suspension and Dave with a hamstring injury for a few weeks now.
“Both have been training pretty well for the last couple of weeks since the bye and are looking to take their place on Friday."
Sandercock asked how close Mullen was taking his place on Friday night after an extended stint on the sideline.
“We are probably as confident as we have been so far as we have been in the last couple of weeks,” Stone said.
“It has taken a little bit of time to sort out his injury and manage his loads and make sure he understands what he’ll feel when he’s in a high pressure situation when he’s running around at some sort if intensity.
“He’s been through four or five sessions now, and if he gets through Thursday, and then pulls up okay, he’ll play on Friday night."
As for areas of improvement, the return of players is set to provide the boost.
"Hopefully it will be in a little bit of continuity and the shape that we had in our side that we probably had in our first couple of weeks when we were relatively injury free,” Stone said.
“We have our halves back in the right place and Kurt back at fullback. I think he’ll help us a little bit at the back there.
“Our pack is pretty solid, obviously without Adam Clydsdale is out with a shoulder injury.
“Hopefully he’ll back in the next couple of weeks.
“I’m looking forward to building on a little bit of some good efforts, particularly from some of our young blokes a couple of weeks ago against the Broncos.”
Another factor to consider will be the cold conditions expected to greet the Knights this weekend and how that affects preparation.
“It might be a bit slippery and the kicking game will be a massive part, particularly the good ball kicking,” the head coach answered.
“They have a great strike rate scoring tries from kicks so we have to manage that.
“If we can give ourselves a chance.”