Shoulder to cry on: Gidley injury case of misery repeating for Stuart
Deja vu ... NSW coach Ricky Stuart has an all to familiar dilemma. Photo: Getty Images
NSW coach Ricky Stuart would have been feeling a sense of deja vu when he saw Kurt Gidley come from Hunter Stadium clutching his left shoulder on Monday night.
Gidley dislocated the same shoulder in the corresponding round last season against Melbourne and missed the opening Origin clash. The injury threw Stuart's plans for the series into chaos as he had intended to start with St George Illawarra's Dean Young at hooker and use Gidley off the interchange bench in the latter part of the first half.
Young would then move to the back row when Gidley came on and the Knights utility would then assume the dummy half duties for the remainder of the match.
Gidley, who can also cover halfback, five-eighth and fullback, is considered to be the best hooker NSW have had since his Newcastle teammate Danny Buderus moved to England in 2009.
With Gidley out, Stuart was forced to call on Canterbury rake Michael Ennis, who had worn the Blues No.9 jersey in four of the previous six Origin matches, and Young played from the bench. Gidley returned for Origin II and III in place of Young, whose troublesome knees prevented him from training and affected him in his Origin debut, but the presence of Ennis - a specialist hooker who likes to play the full 80 minutes - limited how long Gidley spent on the field.
Buderus, who is Stuart's preference for the hooking job now that he has returned from Super League, would not be expected to play long stints in Origin and would have no problems working in tandem with his Newcastle captain.
However, the loss of Gidley has thrown Stuart's Origin plans into disarray for a second successive season and he must now decide whether to stick with Buderus or go back to Ennis as the starting hooker.
Even if he fully recovers from the severely inflamed Achilles tendon injury that forced him from the field in Monday night's match against Penrith, Buderus would not be effective for the entire match.
Melbourne's Ryan Hinchcliffe is the favourite to replace Gidley on the bench if Stuart opts for two hookers, as he usually plays in the back row for the Storm unless Cameron Smith is off the field, but there are doubts about whether his selection would strengthen the team.
Ennis or Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah could play the full 80 minutes unless injured, allowing Stuart four forwards on the bench.
Penrith back-rower Luke Lewis is a player who could cover the utility role if needed, and Stuart would then be able to include Greg Bird, Glenn Stewart, Anthony Watmough and Tony Williams in his squad, along with four front-rowers.
But with a second hooker on the bench to interchange with Buderus, he would have to choose between having two props and one back-rower on the bench or vice-versa.
NSW and Cronulla captain Paul Gallen would be one prop, and North Queensland front-rower James Tamou is a certainty after making the Australian team that played New Zealand in Auckland on April 20. Stuart is a fan of Parramatta's Tim Mannah, renowned for his quick play-the-balls, and St George Illawarra's Trent Merrin and the Tigers' Aaron Woods are vying for the other front row spot.