THE return of Danny Buderus and the resurgence of Darius Boyd have given the Newcastle Knights a twin-pronged injection of confidence leading into tonight’s clash with Gold Coast Titans at Hunter Stadium.
Buderus has missed the past two games with Achilles tendonitis but completed a full training session yesterday, despite a dose of the flu, and is considered a certain starter tonight.
Boyd rested yesterday after his two-try effort for Queensland in Wednesday’s Origin series opener but is expected to take his place in Newcastle’s No.1 jersey.
Rookies Peter Mata’utia and Kevin Naiqama trained in Boyd’s absence yesterday as a precaution.
Widely touted as a NSW Origin certainty before he was sidelined, Buderus, 34, will resume the Knights captaincy and his experience, work rate and energy will be welcomed by his teammates and coach Wayne Bennett.
Bennett described Buderus this week as ‘‘a tremendous asset to us’’ who rated alongside Chris Houston as Newcastle’s best player this season.
‘‘Hopefully Danny will be back this week and ... it may just give us a bit more impetus,’’ the coach said.
Those sentiments were echoed yesterday by Knights playmaker Jarrod Mullen, despite joking that Buderus was ‘‘a bit crook’’ and suffering from a ‘‘Cameron Smith virus’’.
‘‘He’s given his Achilles a good rest, so he’ll be right to go tomorrow night,’’ Mullen said.
‘‘He definitely lifts the team.’’
Mullen was similarly enthused about the prospect of renewing acquaintances with Boyd, who has been searching for form all season before striking gold at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.
‘‘Darbs didn’t train this morning,’’ he said.
‘‘He’s got a few bumps and bruises but I think he’ll play.
‘‘I thought he had a tremendous game [for Queensland]. Like I said, if he can bring some of that confidence back – they had a good win against the Blues – if he can bring that in tomorrow night, it’ll be good for us.’’
Languishing in 10th position after four wins from 10 games, Newcastle could find themselves four points adrift of the top eight if results this weekend fall against them.
Gold Coast are two points below the Knights but their recent form is far more encouraging.
Newcastle are coming off successive losses to the Roosters (24-6) and North Queensland (32-12), while in their past three games Gold Coast have beaten Canterbury and Manly and lost by one point to Wests Tigers.
Titans coach John Cartwright said co-captain Scott Prince would return from an ankle injury.
Gold Coast’s Origin trio of Nate Myles, Greg Bird and Ashley Harrison will all play.