FORMER NSW captain Kurt Gidley has read nothing into being quarantined from last weekend’s representative round, and said helping the Knights kick-start their sputtering season was more important to him than his aspirations to return to the State of Origin arena.
Gidley, Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce and Souths skipper John Sutton were effectively excused from the City-Country game at Dubbo on Sunday under instruction from NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley.
Including five appearances as captain, Gidley has played 12 Origin games for NSW, but the last of those was the deciding game in 2011.
Injuries have ruled Gidley out of the past two series, but Daley has made it clear since the start of the year that he wants the versatile veteran included somewhere in the Blues’ 17-man squad for the series-opener at Suncorp Stadium on May 28.
Gidley is considered the favourite to fill the utility role on the bench. He had also been touted as a possible replacement for hooker Robbie Farah, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, but if Farah is unavailable it seems Michael Ennis is now the likely replacement.
One of a handful of Knights who resumed training yesterday after a week off, Gidley wants to help NSW try to break Queensland’s eight-year Origin stranglehold, but his priority is steering the Knights back up the ladder after just two wins from their first eight games.
The Knights host Penrith at Hunter Stadium on Sunday then play Manly at Brookvale Oval on May 19 before their first club bye.
‘‘I’m not sure what the latest is with the rep stuff, as far as Origin,’’ Gidley said yesterday.
‘‘But I’m looking forward to getting back and playing for the Knights this week, and back at home, and still some improvement for me to do at hooker.
‘‘We haven’t had a great start to the year and we need to improve as a team, and me personally I’m still learning at hooker, and I’d still like to improve in different parts of my game there.’’
Gidley used his week off to recover from a strained quadriceps he has carried for a month.
‘‘It was nice to have a break and sit back and watch a bit of footy. It was good for me to have a bit of time off and recuperate and feel a bit refreshed today,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve had a couple of niggly things – probably my quad was the main thing.
‘‘It was good for me to have a bit of time off and recuperate.’’KURT GIDLEY
‘‘I haven’t been goal-kicking because I’ve had a little quad strain that’s probably been hanging around for a month or so. So I think that was the best thing for me, having a bit of time off and doing a little bit of physio, and it’s the best I’ve felt this morning in a long time.
‘‘... I knew I needed a bit of time off and I was looking forward to just letting my body rest, and I think I feel a lot better for it this morning. Obviously you still like to play in rep games, that’s for sure, but the timing of it, and having a bit of a rest, I think it was the best thing for me.’’
Back-rower Beau Scott is expected to line up against Penrith despite suffering an abdominal strain in the warm-up before captaining Country Origin to a 26-26 draw with City.
Outside backs Aku Uate (knee) and Joey Leilua (knee) have resumed training and are almost certain starters against the Panthers, and lock Jeremy Smith (knee) will be assessed later this week.
Penrith co-captain Kevin Kingston was still wearing a CAM boot at training yesterday to protect an ankle injury but remains hopeful of playing against the Knights on Sunday.