Shin­ing Knights raise the stakes

Townsville Bulletin - - Sports -

THE mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion in New­cas­tle these days is whether to hand over their proud club to the bil­lion­aire min­ing mag­nate.

‘‘ Too close to call,’’ Knights chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Bur­ras­ton said yes­ter­day morn­ing on The Footy Show about the ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing of Knights mem­bers on March 31 that will de­cide if the club should snap up the $ 100 mil­lion on the ta­ble from Nathan Tin­kler.

Hours later, against all pop­u­lar be­lief, the vis­it­ing Knights wiped the floor with last year’s semi-fi­nal­ists Pen­rith 42-8 at Cen­tre­bet Sta­dium.

Those ve­he­mently against the pri­vati­sa­tion of their club will say that’s proof they don’t need a saviour. ‘‘ No need for a hero, thanks very much. ‘‘ We’ve heard this pri­vate own­er­ship malarkey be­fore and it’s not who we are.’’

The pro-Tin­klers will tell you to sit back, close your eyes and imag­ine just how much bet­ter it could be.

Imag­ine that side, with Jar­rod Mullen con­trol­ling the play like the half­back we all know he can be, with rookie fiveeighth Beau Henry play­ing well be­yond his years in his first ever ap­pear­ance, with winger Akuila Uate fly­ing al­most as quickly as his thor­ough­bred name­sake, imag­ine that side with the likes of Ja­mal Idris and Kade Snow­den and who­ever else Tin­kler can at­tract to the Hunter. Imag­ine it. That’s a ques­tion for the end of the month for Knights mem­bers, but for now they can at least revel in the fact that their club has started their 2011 cam­paign in em­phatic style.

‘‘ Prob­a­bly, at times, Pen­rith made us look bet­ter than we were,’’ said Knights coach Rick Stone, who had ev­ery right to talk up his team’s per­for­mance given how many coaches have been spec­u­lated to fill his of­fice from next sea­son.

Given how ham-fisted the poor old Pan­thers looked, he was right.

Yet if there was one as­pect of the round one match that should hearten Knights fans it was the vir­tu­oso per­for­mance from Mullen, the hot-and-cold half­back def­i­nitely run­ning hot in the 32C fur­nace yes­ter­day.

His kick­ing game was as good as it gets, with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of his pre­de­ces­sor Andrew Johns who was on the side­lines call­ing for Chan­nel Nine. ‘‘ In those con­di­tions, the ma­tu­rity and feel he had for the game was out­stand­ing,’’ Stone en­thused. ‘‘ It was a real half­back’s knock.’’ Said Mullen: ‘‘ I’ve had some pres­sure off me in the last few years and I’ve put in some good per­for­mances – but con­sis­tency’s let me down a bit.

‘‘ I’m ma­tur­ing as a player. I’ve played more than a hun­dred first-grade games now so it’s time for me to play con­sis­tently well ev­ery week.’’

What also im­pressed was how the Knights man­aged to grap­ple with key in­juries to Neville Costi­gan ( bro­ken arm) and then when Gi­d­ley was helped up the tun­nel just af­ter half­time with a back spasm.

ON A ROLL: Beau Henry cel­e­brates cross­ing for a try for the Knights

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