Newcastle Knights' Jarrod Mullen hopeful of early return to 2014 NRL season after hamstring injury

THE 2014 NRL season will kick off this weekend, but the Newcastle Knights will be without five-eighth Jarrod Mullen for at least the first few weeks.

Two weeks ago Mullen tore his hamstring during the Auckland Nines tournament. He has declared he will push for an early return.

Mullen's Sydney specialist told him he would not require surgery and said it would be up to 16 weeks before he returned to full strength.

A determined Mullen said despite training staff holding him back, he aimed to be back on the field by the six-to-eight-week mark.

Mullen has nominated off-season recruit Michael Dobson as his replacement, but Knights coach Wayne Bennett has not yet revealed who will step in.

The Newcastle Knights will play the Penrith Panthers this Saturday, March 8, at 4.30pm at Sportingbet Stadium.