KNIGHTS coach Wayne Bennett does not expect captain Kurt Gidley will play again this season after the inspirational skipper dislocated his left shoulder in Newcastle’s 34-14 victory over Penrith at Hunter Stadium last night.
Gidley’s devastating setback and an injury to his deputy, Danny Buderus, who aggravated Achilles tendonitis and will have scans today to determine his immediate playing future, took much of the gloss off what had otherwise been Newcastle’s most emphatic and entertaining win this season.
High-profile recruit Willie Mason made an impact in his 22 minutes in the middle, earning loud cheers of support from most of the 16,892-strong crowd.
Mason finished the game on the bench with ice strapped to his hamstring but Bennett did not believe the former NSW and Australian forward was seriously injured.
Gidley dislocated his left shoulder for the third time in the space of 12 months when he tackled friend and former Knights teammate Clint Newton in the 58th minute, and he had to be taken to hospital last night to have it put back in under anaesthetic.
He initially sustained the injury exactly one year ago to the night – against Melbourne at AAMI Park on April 30 last year.
And his bad run continued when he suffered a recurrence in the opening minutes of Newcastle’s 18-6 victory over Cronulla at Toyota Stadium on March 11 this year.
‘‘It is serious. His shoulder won’t go back in so he’s on his way to hospital right now, in a fair bit of pain, so they’ll have to manipulate it back in,’’ Bennett said.
Asked if Gidley was likely to miss the rest of the season, Bennett said: ‘‘I’d have to say, probably.’’
‘‘I certainly don’t want to see him continually go through this,’’ he said.
‘‘He’s stopping and starting the season, and we’re into week eight now, and this is the second time he’s hurt it.
‘‘So I’d probably think, being candid with you, my preferred position would be that he gets an operation and gets it sorted out, and he’ll play next year.
‘‘As I said, it’s football and you just get on with it.
‘‘There’s no guarantees out here.’’
It was a dramatic night for the Knights and for NSW, because Gidley and Buderus had been pencilled in for the first game of the State of Origin series on May 23.
Buderus hobbled from the field one minute before half-time with a recurrence of the Achilles tendonitis that forced him out of the Country Origin side last week and he did not return for the second half.
But the injury to Gidley was causing most concern in the Newcastle rooms after the game.
Commentating on Triple M’s radio coverage, former Knights captain Andrew Johns reported: ‘‘As the trainer came to the sideline, he (Gidley) was yelling, ‘The shoulder’s out’.’’
Mason told Triple M: ‘‘I think Bedsy [Buderus] is fine. I think Gids has gone to hospital with a dislocated shoulder.’’
Bennett said Buderus’s Achilles tendonitis flared when ‘‘somewhere in the game he felt a little bit of a tear there’’.
‘‘It’s not too serious, we don’t think, but we’re just not sure what it is until we get some scans,’’ the coach said.
‘‘That’s football. It goes with the territory.’’
Asked about his Origin aspirations, Buderus said he was not looking past Newcastle’s game against Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
‘‘It’s gone up a notch from what I’ve had recently. I’m going to have to get scans and see what will happen over the next few days,’’ Buderus said.
Five-eighth Jarrod Mullen said the Knights would have to soldier on without their skipper, and that if Gidley does not play again this season it would present an opportunity for Tyrone Roberts and the club’s other young playmakers.
‘‘It’s not good losing your skipper obviously, in round eight, and I’m not sure what the diagnosis is there,’’ Mullen said.
‘‘But we’ve got some good young halves coming through so if he is out for the season, which would be terrible for the club, we’ve got some good young halves to come in and fill the spot.’’
If the injuries to Gidley and Buderus were not enough of a concern for NSW coach Ricky Stuart, Blues certainties Luke Lewis (arm) and Michael Jennings (neck) were casualties for the Panthers.
Both left the game in the second half, although Lewis said after the game that he was ‘‘fine’’.
He was not among the contenders for a NSW jersey, but Penrith halfback Luke Walsh suffered knee ligament damage when tackled by Knights forwards Alex McKinnon and Joel Edwards in the 34th minute, and the former Knights playmaker could be sidelined for four to six weeks.
Newcastle led 16-4 at half-time after tries to James McManus, Mullen and Zeb Taia, then stretched that to a match-winning 28-4 advantage when Timana Tahu and Gidley scored converted tries three minutes apart.
The Knights led 34-8 after forward Neville Costigan burrowed over in the 74th minute to score their sixth try but Newton crossed for his second try, pouncing on a Travis Burns grubber three minutes later, to trim the final margin to 20 points.
‘‘It was better than we’d been doing. We just lost our way a little bit, of course, everyone could see that,’’ Bennett said.
‘‘But there were some good things out there.
‘‘There was some football being played and it was nice to see them score some good tries.’’
Jennings’s try for the Panthers ended a 204-minute scoreless drought that stretched back to their last points, scored with 20 minutes left in their 15-14 loss to the Sharks at Centrebet Stadium on March 31.
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary lamented the club’s mounting injury toll.
‘‘Every club gets injuries, I suppose, but it was hard to take tonight when you’ve already got your hooker [Kevin Kingston] out, then you lose your halfback,’’ Cleary said.
‘‘That obviously affected our continuity throughout the game, which at a time like now wasn’t great. It is tough times, there’s no doubt about that.’’
Penrith, coached by former Knights under 20s mentor Garth Brennan, kicked a field goal with 10 seconds left to pip the Knights 29-28 in the top-of-the-table NYC curtain-raiser last night.