Shining Knights raise the stakes
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