INSPIRATIONAL Newcastle hooker Danny Buderus feels like ''a new man'' less than a week after undergoing back surgery that has salvaged his 14th and final NRL campaign.
The former Knights, NSW and Australian captain is back at home and has already begun the rehabilitation and recovery process in preparation for an anticipated return late next month or in early April.
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley, Buderus's friend and long-time former teammate, said the veteran hooker was already feeling the benefits of the discectomy.
In that procedure, surgeons removed herniated disc material pressing against Buderus's spinal cord in his lower back that caused him extreme pain.
''I've just been on the phone with Danny for 20 minutes and he's fantastic,'' Gidley told Fairfax Media. ''He said it was instant relief, so his recovery's going superbly well.
''He's a new man, he was just telling me now. He feels fantastic, he said the surgery went really well, and now he's just working his way through recovery, getting physio and doing some rehab. He's looking forward to working through his rehab program and his recovery and getting ready to play footy again.''
Gidley said there was no definite return date set but coach Wayne Bennett said last week that the club's medical staff were working towards an eight-week recovery period.
If Buderus was cleared on March 27, eight weeks after the operation, he could be available to play the round-four game against Canberra at Hunter Stadium on March 31, or the round-five game against the Dragons at Jubilee Oval on April 7.
''We're aiming for eight weeks,'' Bennett said. ''That's our margin call. These guys are elite athletes and they rehab better than anybody … there have been a couple of other instances … when guys got back in six to eight weeks.''
Buderus, who turns 35 on Wednesday, will be the NRL's oldest player this season.