Veteran Timana Tahu still waiting to find top gear

EVEN after playing his best game since returning to Newcastle, mercurial centre Timana Tahu said he could be doing better.

Coach Wayne Bennett agreed, and both hope to see some evidence when the Knights, without captain Kurt Gidley and deputy Danny Buderus, play the Roosters at Allianz Stadium tomorrow.

‘‘He is a very talented player. We’ve just got to get that talent out each week and [let him] show us what he can really do,’’ Bennett said of the 31-year-old dual international.

‘‘He’s still not anywhere near what I think he can play, but when he does something and he gets it right, he’s certainly very classy.’’

Having helped set up first-half tries for James McManus, Jarrod Mullen and Zeb Taia in Newcastle’s 34-14 victory over Penrith on Monday night, Tahu picked off a pass from former teammate Clint Newton in the 50th minute and returned it 75metres to score his first try for the Knights since crossing for a double against Manly eight years ago.

That took Tahu’s Knights career try tally to 83, and within four of the club record Adam MacDougall (87) took from him in late 2010.

Rather than blow his own trumpet, Tahu confessed to making ‘‘crucial’’ mistakes against Penrith.

Eradicating those errors from his game was more important to him than making the highlight reel for bursting into the clear and scoring runaway tries.

‘‘The dropped ball off the scrum, a couple of missed tackles here and there – I still have those in my game,’’ Tahu said. ‘‘I’m just trying to stay consistent and try to be mistake-free for the team and for myself. I’m trying to work on that every week, and hopefully I get better as the season goes on.’’

The loss of Gidley (shoulder), almost certainly for the year, and Buderus (Achilles tendon) for at least the next two games, leaves Tahu as one of the team’s oldest and most experienced players.

Gidley had scans on Thursday, which confirmed he had suffered significant damage when he dislocated his left shoulder against Penrith.

The 29-year-old skipper will see specialist Des Bokor in Sydney on Monday, and is preparing to be told he needs season-ending surgery.

Gidley (192) and 34-year-old Buderus (228) have played 420 games for the Knights.

Tahu has played a combined 174 matches for Parramatta, Penrith and in two stints for Newcastle.

Only Willie Mason (213), who at 32 is now the only player in the team older than Tahu, and Matt Hilder (192) have made more NRL appearances.

‘‘Having two leaders out, it’s a bit of a worry for us ... We’ll just need to weather the storm a little bit and stay confident,’’ Tahu said.

‘‘It’s a team sport and I think everyone just needs to pick up themselves a little bit.’’

A Knights spokeswoman said Bennett was yet to say who would captain the team in the absence of Gidley and Buderus, but the Herald understands Chris Houston, Wes Naiqama and Mullen are the main contenders.

When Buderus was ruled out for three to four weeks on Wednesday with Achilles tendonitis, the Knights said Hilder would replace him at hooker but Hilder is expected to share the dummy-half duties with lock Neville Costigan.

Forwards Adam Cuthbertson and Richie Fa’aoso have trained with the squad all week and will travel to Sydney today as part of an 18-man squad.

Roosters coach Brian Smith named an 18-man squad on Tuesday and has given no public indication which player he intends to omit.

The Roosters, who re-signed veteran NSW and former Australian fullback Anthony Minichiello yesterday to a one-year contract extension, have not played since losing 28-24 to the Dragons at Allianz Stadium on Anzac Day.

? The Knights will play Parramatta at 1pm today at St Mary’s in the Harold Matthews (under-16) grand final.

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