Following on from a bye in Round 18, the Newcastle Knights embrace a full week of training ahead of what is anticipated to be a challenging clash against the second placed Melbourne Storm on home turf.
A major inclusion to the team this week is five-eighth Jarrod Mullen, who has been cleared to play after recovering from a hamstring injury.
“He has done really well the last few days and did really well last week,” coach Nathan Brown explained.
“We’d be surprised if he wasn’t going to play.
“He has been cleared by the specialist and has passed anything he has had to do and has completed the last two team sessions so he will have a full week of training.
“Unless there was a hiccup, I would expect him to play.”
The coach believes the injection of Mullen's experience and leadership on the field will have a positive influence on the team.
“He has a lot of experience which helps in amongst a younger side and he also definitely has a very good kicking game,” Brown said.
“The kicking game and the experience are the two real highlights he can bring to the team.”
He also spoke about utility the progress of utility Tyler Randell, who has been ruled out by a rib injury he sustained in the Round 17 match against the Canberra Raiders.
“At first they thought he was roughly going to be around the four-week mark, and nothing there has changed at this stage,” Brown said.
His absence could lead to newly signed local, Chris Adams getting another opportunity in the NRL playing at hooker.
“Chris has been with us for three weeks and has played two reserve grade games,” he said.
“He has gotten better from week to week and Bedsy (Danny Buderus) has been putting plenty of time into him.
“Whatever Chris does in week one, he’ll do better in week two...he’s very keen and is quite tough from what I believe."
After the effort shown during last weekend’s close contest against the Raiders and with the influx of players who have returned from injury, Brown expects the Knights to make a good account of themselves against the competition heavyweights.
“They have certainly improved,” he said about the Knights.
“I’d like to think with Sione going into the back row and doing what he did the other day.
"Mitch Barnett having been here for an number of weeks and Brendan Elliot being at the Club, Robbie Rochow back from injury and Mullen being back from injury.
“As well as the younger guys playing more football.
“We showed the other day there is definitely some improvement there.
“We just need to find that consistency and this week will be another good challenge for us.
"That improvement will serve the Knights well as I think Melbourne is playing a fair bit better than at the start of the year.
“Their attack seems to have really grown a lot in the last sort of eight weeks or so.
“Melbourne is one of the top two or three sides in the competition and I’m expecting with luck with injury they can get some players back and keep them back, I would be surprised if grand final day come around and they weren’t there.”
Kids go free when the Newcastle Knights take on the Melbourne Storm at Hunter Stadium on Sunday. Purchase your match tickets now.