THE Newcastle Knights have signed four-time Indigenous All Stars hooker Travis Waddell to a two-year contract and he is expected to make his debut for the club against Wests Tigers at Hunter Stadium next Monday night.
First-choice dummy-half Danny Buderus is recovering from lower-back surgery and deputy Matt Hilder is expected to be sidelined for a month after being diagnosed with a broken thumb suffered in a pre-season trial against Cronulla at Tamworth nine days ago.
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley told the Newcastle Herald that Waddell would train with his new teammates tomorrow morning and expected coach Wayne Bennett to name the 23-year-old rake in the team to tackle the Tigers.
After trialling with the Knights against South Sydney at Coffs Harbour on February 16, Waddell was on the verge of signing with the New Zealand Warriors, but Gidley said the landscape changed when the extent of Hilder’s injury was made clear.
Waddell played 53 NRL games with Canberra in the past four seasons but the Raiders released him at the end of last year.
He had signed to play with Queensland Cup club Souths Logan Magpies this season until Knights coach Wayne Bennett showed interest in securing him as a back-up for Buderus, who at the age of 35 will be the NRL’s oldest player this year.
‘‘We are delighted to have secured Travis’s signature for the next two years,’’ Gidley said on the club’s website.
‘‘With this season being Danny Buderus’s last, it will be great to have someone with Travis’s experience working alongside Danny, Matt Hilder, and the host of young hookers we have coming through our system.
‘‘Travis has a big future ahead of him and we can provide the best environment for him to reach his potential.
‘‘It is unfortunate to have both Matt and Danny unavailable but we are fortunate we had Travis train with us in the pre-season and we are confident he will be ready to go for round one.’’