Canberra coach Ricky Stuart says Jarrod Mullen’s return will make the Knights a completely different outfit from the one they toppled in round two.
Forget round two: Jarrod Mullen’s return is going to make Newcastle a whole different prospect to stop.
Canberra might have toppled the Knights in Newcastle less than a month ago, but coach Ricky Stuart knows it’s going to be a whole lot tougher at Canberra Stadium come Saturday.
The Knights have confirmed key playmaker Mullen will play in the clash after recovering from a hamstring injury he sustained in the Auckland Nines pre-season tournament.
As such, there’s not much Canberra can take from their previous encounter, says Stuart.
“They’ll be a different team again with Jarrod Mullen playing and (Darius) Boyd out the back,” Stuart said.
It won’t just change the way Newcastle attack, Stuart said, but lift the mentality of the second-last placed side.
“They’ll have a lot of confidence knowing Jarrod is back,” he said.
“He will make the players around him better.
“But we’ve prepared for that all week.”
Both sides enter the match on the back of losses, the Raiders 12-6 to Penrith, while the Knights were thumped 28-2 by North Queensland.
And while “desperate” has been Knights coach Wayne Bennett’s word of the week, Stuart, whose side is two and three, is refusing to buy into a similar mentality.
“No. You tell me why I should be desperate?” Stuart said.
“We’ve got a real positive vibe around the joint.”
Stuart said his side had just completed a tough five-match stint, four of which were on the road.
“Physically we are on the back end of a tough slog.
“But players in new positions are slowly gelling.”
The Raiders will be buoyed by the return of Australian and Maroons representative Josh Papalii, back from a three-week stint on the sidelines following an ankle injury he initially sustained against the Knights.