Knights 34 Panthers 14
In with a shout ... veteran Willie Mason made an impact on his first-grade debut for the Knights last night, but of more significance to the Newcastle side were injuries to Kurt Gidley and Danny Buderus. Photo: Getty Images
LAST night's game in Newcastle blew up in NSW coach Ricky Stuart's face, with injury ending the season for Blues regular Kurt Gidley, threatening the State of Origin comeback of veteran hooker Danny Buderus and forcing Michael Jennings and Luke Lewis from the field in pain as well.
Knights coach Wayne Bennett confirmed the worst fears for his halfback, Gidley, who went off 19 minutes into the second half with a dislocated left shoulder. Gidley was already pencilled in as the key man on the NSW bench, covering the halves, hooker and fullback, but instead of continuing the countdown to that he was on his way to hospital before full-time.
Look who's back ... Willie Mason charges into the defence. Photo: Darren Pateman
''It's serious,'' he said. ''It [the shoulder] wouldn't go back in and he is on the way to hospital tonight. They will have to manipulate it back in.''
Asked if that meant the season was over for Gidley, who had also experienced a problem with the shoulder earlier this season, Bennett replied: ''I would have to say probably. I don't want to have to see him constantly go through something like this, so I probably think my preferred position is he gets the operation, gets it sorted out, and comes back next year.''
Newcastle hooker Buderus limped off the field in the 39th minute of the game the Knights won 34-14 with a recurrence of the Achilles tendon injury that was his reason for not playing in the City-Country match last Sunday week. Buderus returned to the Knights bench in his civvies 13 minutes into the second half.
"It's nothing too bad, well, hopefully" ... Penrith's Michael Jennings. Photo: Getty Images
A bitterly disappointed Buderus said afterwards the injury had ''gone up a level'' on what he had experienced with it in recent weeks, adding: ''I'm sure it's not torn, but I'm going to have to get a scan and go from there. There's a number of treatments they can use now, including injecting your own blood into the area.''
Asked if he thought he would be OK to play in Origin I against Queensland at Etihad Stadium on May 23, Buderus replied: ''I'm just hoping to play soon, hoping to play next week.''
But it was clear from the way Buderus limped out of the stadium that this is not going to be an easy problem for him to overcome in time to prove his fitness for Origin. There are only two more rounds before the team is picked.
The early reports were better for the two Penrith players who were injured last night and are certain Blues selections if fit.
Centre Michael Jennings suffered a pinched nerve in his neck and was helped off in the 60th minute. Then Penrith lock and captain Luke Lewis came from the field with his left arm dangling. He had clearly been restricted for a while before finally calling it quits.
Lewis said his problem was in the shoulder, and that it had first emerged last season. But he said he was still hoping to play for Penrith next weekend.
''It's usually a bit of nerve damage when I lose some feeling in it like that,'' Lewis said. ''Last year it happened a fair bit, but this is the first time it has happened this season.
''It usually comes good after a couple of days.''
Jennings said he had suffered a ''stinger'', adding: ''It's nothing too bad, well, hopefully. I'll go and see the physio and doc and go from there. When I did it I thought I had done my shoulder. As time went on it [the pain] kind of went away, and I started to get confident. Our doctor has just told me it's a nerve in my neck. I just want to get through the whole season fit.''
It had been reported Jennings, who has been in trouble for off-field misdemeanours before, had been warned by Penrith boss Phil Gould for drinking on Anzac Day.
Asked about that, Jennings said: ''There's nothing in it. My main focus was just to come to the game. I don't know what all these dramas are about. I'll leave it at that.''
NEWCASTLE 34 (N Costigan K Gidley J McManus J Mullen T Tahu Z Taia tries K Gidley 4 W Naiqama goals) bt PENRITH 14 (C Newton 2 M Jennings tries T Burns goal) at Hunter Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Alan Shortall. Crowd: 16,892