KNIGHTS captain Jarrod Mullen has had his most consistent season but neither he nor his coach believe he will win the Dally M Medal as the NRL’s best player this year.
The NRL’s most prestigious individual award will be presented tonight at the Star Event Centre in Sydney, and Mullen and winger James McManus will fly the flag for the Knights.
Retired former captain Danny Buderus won in 2004 after another former Newcastle, NSW and Australian skipper, Andrew Johns, won in 1998, 1999 and 2002.
Mullen played 26 of a possible 27 games for the Knights this season, leading the NRL in total kicks (426) and kicking metres (13,625).
He also leads the league in try assists with 25, though Roosters halves Mitchell Pearce (24) and James Maloney (23) have the chance to pass him in the grand final against Manly on Sunday.
Two-time winner Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys), Souths pair Greg Inglis and John Sutton, Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk, Cronulla playmaker Todd Carney, Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and Mullen are contenders.
Cronk (16) led Inglis, Sutton and Mullen (all 15) after round 16, when the voting tally was no longer made public.
‘‘He had a wonderful year and he was very consistent but I’d say probably not,’’ Knights coach Wayne Bennett said when asked about Mullen’s chances of winning.
Mullen, who did not speak to the media yesterday, said two weeks ago that he was pleased to have been invited to the presentation ceremony for the first time in his career but was not expecting to hear his name called.
Scoring 19 tries each, McManus, Manly’s David Williams and Penrith’s David Simmons finished in a three-way tie as the NRL’s top tryscorers and they will be acknowledged tonight.
After three straight years as Dally M winger of the year, Knights flyer Akuila Uate is expected to relinquish that title. Uate will represent Fiji at the World Cup later this month after fullback Darius Boyd and back-rower Beau Scott were the only Knights players added yesterday to the Australian train-on squad. That will be trimmed next Monday to a 24-man touring party.
Boyd has become a fixture on the Australian left wing outside Queensland team-mate Inglis. Scott’s only Test appearance was against Wales in the 2011 Four Nations tournament.
Uate’s omission cleared the way for his selection yesterday for Fiji, who will be coached by Knights NSW Cup coach and NRL assistant coach Rick Stone.
Korbin Sims and Penrith-bound winger Kevin Naiqama were already in the Fijian squad, and lock Jeremy Smith is a certain inclusion for reigning World Cup champions New Zealand.
McManus, who missed the last two finals due to an ankle injury, will undergo surgery to have bone fragments removed and cartilage repaired.
That will rule him out of Scotland’s World Cup campaign for a second straight tournament after groin surgery sidelined him in 2008.
Other Knights players in line to play at the World Cup include centre Joey Leilua, utility forward David Fa’alogo and Dragons recruit Peter Mata’utia (Samoa), prop Zane Tetevano (Cook Islands) and Gold Coast-bound centre Siuatonga Likiliki (Tonga).
Kade Snowden, Josh Mantellato and possibly Craig Gower are eligible for Italy, but Snowden will miss the World Cup due to suspension.
Meanwhile, Bennett said Buderus was making steady progress since being knocked unconscious in the 18th minute of Newcastle’s loss to the Roosters.
Buderus is back home after spending Saturday night at St Vincent’s Hospital.
‘‘He’s all good. A few headaches and that, still a little drowsy, but otherwise he’s fine,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘I’m just trying to convince him his last game was Melbourne. It was a good game for him.’’
LEADER: Jarrod Mullen. Picture: Getty Images