After seven seasons and over 100-top-flight appearances in first grade, Newcastle Knights five-eighth Kurt Mann has finally come of age and is knocking on the door of selection for the Queensland Maroons.
Many were sceptical of Mann being picked by new coach Adam O’Brien to partner Mitchell Pearce in the halves for the club this season. But along with fullback Kalyn Ponga, the duo have formed one of the most dangerous spines in the competition.
Under ex-coach Nathan Brown last season, Mann spent just five of his 19 appearances in the five-eighth role.
Relishing the opportunity presented to him, Mann this year has recorded five tries, five try assists, three line breaks and averages 110 run metres per game under the tutelage of O’Brien in his 10 appearances.
Comparing these numbers to current State of Origin incumbents Jack Wighton and Cameron Munster, Mann leads the way in all departments. Munster this season has recorded a single try, four try assists and two line breaks.
Wighton has scored four tries, recorded three try assists and has broken the line on three occasions whilst both men average 101 running metres per game.
The most important asset to Mann’s club in 2020 has been his running game. A number of times this season, with the Knights on the back foot and losing the yardage battle, Mann has stepped up and swung the momentum back to his team with a strong running performance.
It sees him currently sitting second in the competition for tackle breaks for halves.
With injuries to Michael Morgan and form concerns clouding the likes of Moses Mbye, Corey Norman, Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt; Kurt Mann may well be firming for the utility role for Queensland at the backend of the season.
The improved NRL player’s ability to play all positions in the backline should have him deep in the selection thoughts of head coach Kevin Walters for Game 1 on November 4.