GALLERY: Knights versus Broncos in Brisbane
SEEMINGLY spoiled for choice a month ago, Knights coach Wayne Bennett will have to manufacture a back-up dummy-half for whatever is left of their campaign after captain Kurt Gidley suffered a season-ending foot injury in Brisbane on Friday night.
Veteran Craig Gower, who was recruited three months ago to provide insurance at halfback and hooker for the rest of the season, would have been considered an obvious replacement.
But the 35-year-old former premiership-winning Penrith skipper, who has missed Newcastle’s past four games, is battling a damaged nerve in his neck that could force him to retire.
Gidley, who returned to Newcastle with his teammates on Saturday after helping them rally from a 14-0 deficit to beat the Broncos 26-18 and keep their finals hopes alive, will see a specialist this week to discuss the results of scans.
The 31-year-old former NSW skipper suffered suspected ligament or tendon damage to his left foot, and possible fractures, when tackled by Brisbane utility David Stagg while scoring a crucial try in the 48th minute.
Gidley, who had started at halfback for Tyrone Roberts, was playing just his fourth game back after missing eight games due to a torn ligament in his right foot.
Roberts came off the bench to deputise for starting dummy-half Danny Buderus but switched to halfback and finished the game there after Gidley left the field on the medicab. He is certain to start against Parramatta at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
The 22-year-old Ballina junior has played in 41 consecutive games for the Knights and had started 14 straight at halfback before being benched against the Broncos.
The retiring Buderus, who played 58 minutes against Brisbane, will almost certainly be asked to play extra minutes against the Eels and during the finals if the Knights get there.
Since returning on June 30 after two lower-back operations in three months, he had been averaging 46.5 minutes in the eight straight games he had played before Friday night.
Bennett used National Youth Cup captain Adam Clydsdale off the bench in two games earlier this season, but the promising Clydsdale is being treated for a syndesmosis injury, or high-ankle sprain, and is unlikely to play again this season.
NSW Cup hooker Chris Adams is yet to make an NRL appearance this season after coming off the bench to play three matches last year.
Other options include using senior forwards Matt Hilder or Neville Costigan in short bursts, or using fullback Darius Boyd in the dummy-half role when the Knights are attacking and having one of the forwards defend in the middle of the ruck while Buderus rests.
Meanwhile, bench forward David Fa’alogo will come under the scrutiny of the NRL match review committee today after being reported for a shoulder charge that struck Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough in the head in the 55th minute of the game at Suncorp Stadium.
Kade Snowden is serving a seven-game suspension after he pleaded guilty last week to a grade-four shoulder charge that broke Cowboys hooker Ray Thompson’s jaw.
CAMPAIGN OVER: Kurt Gidley is stretchered off against the Broncos. Picture: Getty Images
Bennett said veteran lock Jeremy Smith, who has missed the past three games due to a fractured sternum, had a good chance of returning against the Eels.