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JAKE LOOKS TO KICK ANOTHER GOAL
By Wayne Cousins
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Jake Mullaney can cap off a remarkable year in the Toyota Cup competition with a premiership victory this Sunday.
Heading into the Grand Final against the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium, the 19-year-old Mullaney has amassed 308 points through 27 tries and 100 goals in 26 games. Nineteen of his tries have come in his last nine games alone.
As the leading pointscorer, Mullaney’s season averages 26 line breaks, had five line break assists, seven try assists, four offloads and a massive 136 tackle breaks.
His game averages are just as impressive - 10.7 runs, 115.1 metres, 3.5 kick returns, 41.6 metres on kick returns. As for the season’s total, 279 runs for 2993 metres and 92 kick returns for an average kick return metres of 1082.
Mullaney’s nearest rival in the pointscoring list lines up against him on Sunday in Storm full-back Gareth Widdop.
In 24 games, the Englishman has scored 15 tries and kicked 108 goals for 276 points. His season’s averages show 16 line breaks, 14 line break assists, 18 try assists, 22 offloads and 146 tackle breaks.
When asked about his season, the quietly spoken Mullaney remains humble. After all, he started the pre-season trialing at five-eighth but lost out to another talented ball player in Robert Lui.
“To be honest, at the start of the year, I didn’t think I was even going to make the top 17,’’ Mullaney said.
“To now be in a Grand Final is just amazing.”
Mullaney’s red hot form has seen him become a favourite amongst Wests Tigers supporters, who see plenty of former full-back Brett Hodgson in him.
Both are goal-kickers, both play well above their weight despite their size and both played for the same junior club in Eagle Vale-St Andrews in the Western Suburbs competition.
Like Hodgson, Mullaney has a fan club. Hanging on a fence in the preliminary final win over the Dragons was a banner that read ‘Mullaney is No 1’. The fan club will grow too once Mullaney hits the NRL stage.
“My girlfriend, Tanya, is responsible for that. She made it up and got her friends behind it. It is pretty cool,’’ he said, smiling.
Wests Tigers captain and half-back Darren Nicholls said Mullaney is the best support player he has played with.
“Whenever someone makes a break, Jake is always sniffing around,’’ Nicholls said.
“To his credit, when he didn’t make it at five-eighth, he kept going and when he got a crack at full-back, he took it. Jake has certainly not looked back since.”
An accomplished goal-kicker himself, Nicholls has kicked just 10 goals this season when Mullaney hasn’t been on the field. According to football manager Darren Mooney, Nicholls even calls himself ‘The Ice Man’ for his ability to kick crucial goals.
“Every week I ask Jake ‘are you sure you want to kick today’ and he just says yes,I’ll be right’,’ Nicholls smiled.
“I’m always telling the boys I am the second string kicker. Robbie thinks he is but he is third string. And on top of that, (prop) Andrew Fifita says that if we are in trouble and need a goal from 50 metres out, he will kick it over.”
Thankfully, Mullaney doesn’t need any help!