WAYNE Bennett’s concerns about the futility of Danny Buderus representing Country Origin were first expressed by long-time coaching rival Brian Smith five years ago.
Citing the need to rest chronic Achilles tendonitis, which has dogged him since 2007 when Smith was coaching him at the Knights, Buderus did not front yesterday for the Country team medical and officially withdrew from the game against City at Mudgee on Sunday.
The 34-year-old former NSW and Australian captain and hooker, who represented Country five times between 2001 and 2008 including three as skipper, has been holidaying with his family in Adelaide since playing in Newcastle’s 12-4 loss to the Dragons at Kogarah on Friday.
The Knights do not play again until they host Penrith at Hunter Stadium on Monday, April 30, and players are not required to resume training until Saturday.
Rejecting advice from Buderus and Bennett, Country coach Laurie Daley and selectors named the veteran dummy-half to lead the boys from the bush on Sunday, but that duty will now fall to West Maitland junior Greg Bird.
Melbourne utility Ryan Hinchcliffe has been promoted from the bench to replace Buderus as hooker, and Canberra half Josh McCrone has been added to the squad.
Bennett unsuccessfully urged Country selectors to overlook Buderus, who has reportedly edged past incumbent Michael Ennis and perennial contender Robbie Farah for the NSW No.9 jersey.
‘‘I couldn’t imagine Queensland ever doing that to Darren Lockyer or one of their 34-year-olds,’’ Bennett said after the loss to the Dragons on Friday.
‘‘A bit of respect there, that’s what’s needed, for what he’s done and who he is.
‘‘A 34-year-old, surely to God you don’t have to go and play a City-Country game, to prove what to who? What’s he got to prove to anybody? We all know what he can do.’’
Smith expressed the same sentiments after Buderus played three games in seven days, including City-Country, in the lead-up to the 2007 Origin series.
Buderus had aprotinin injections in both Achilles tendons after the third of those matches, for the Knights against the Warriors, to give himself 11 days for the condition to settle before the Origin series-opener.
‘‘I thought it was very disappointing that he was even asked to play in that [City-Country] game,’’ Smith told the Newcastle Herald on May 12.
‘‘What did he have to prove? He’s going to be NSW captain, for God’s sake.
‘‘That’s the type of guy he is, though. He was asked to play and he wouldn’t say no to anybody.
‘‘I respect his willingness to do anything for anyone in rugby league, even if it means putting himself under pressure.
‘‘I don’t think anyone would have blamed him if he said he preferred not to play for Country.’’
Buderus played just 13 games for the Knights that season after suffering torn knee ligaments in a 44-0 loss to the Storm in Melbourne a fortnight after the end of the Origin series.
Speaking to the Herald on July 18 that year, Smith second-guessed his management of Buderus’s workload through the representative season.
‘‘He went into overload around City-Country and to be fair, again, I wish I’d dealt with it a little differently. But when the bloke’s pushing for [NSW] captaincy and his Aussie jersey and the whole bit, it’s pretty hard,’’ Smith said.
Buderus is averaging 71 minutes and 38 tackles a game in his return to the NRL this year after three Super League seasons with Leeds.
In 77 minutes of game time, Buderus made 41 tackles and received the ball a game-high 102 times on Friday.
Dragons hooker Mitch Rein (66) had the next most ‘‘receives’’ of any player.