Kurt tempers emotions for his milestone game

Kurt Gidley is set to play his 250th match for the Knights.KNIGHTS skipper Kurt Gidley is feeling mixed emotions about surpassing Andrew Johns to sit behind only Danny Buderus on the list of Newcastle’s most capped players.
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Gidley will become just the second player in Knights history to play 250 games for the club, passing Johns (249) and moving into outright second behind Buderus (257) when he leads Newcastle against the Bulldogs on Old Boys’ Day at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.

‘‘I don’t know whether I’m proud of that or not,’’ said Gidley, who will leave the Knights at the end of the season to finish his career with English Super League club Warrington.

‘‘I’ve got so many people to thank during my career because of where I am, and Joey’s certainly one of those.’’

– KURT GIDLEY

The 33-year-old former NSW and Australian utility joined Johns on 249 games when he led the Knights to a remarkable 20-6 victory over Melbourne at AAMI Park on Monday night – a win he rated as one of the most satisfying and enjoyable of his career.

Johns and Buderus, the former NSW and Australian halfback and hooker generally considered the two best players the Knights have produced, were Gidley’s captains for his first eight years at the club, then he succeeded Buderus at the end of 2008.

He remains close friends with both and said they left lasting impressions on him as he developed into a player and leader capable of captaining his club and state.

‘‘Joey took me under his wing when I was a young fella and would take me down the park outside of training hours and help me and my game, and Danny was another one,’’ he said of the Knights Hall of Famers.

‘‘When I was coming through, they were my leaders. Joey was captain then he moved on and Danny was captain, so I wouldn’t be the player I am today without those two guys.’’

Gidley could not have scripted a better scenario for his 250th game.

‘‘I’m so proud of everything I’ve achieved at this club,’’ he said. ‘‘I love all the former players, and I love mixing with those guys – guys that I played with and guys who I didn’t play with that come back to town and still love the club and the team.

‘‘It’s a great thrill for me to lead the boys out through the guard of honour, through our Old Boys, and to do it one last time on a special milestone for myself, in front of the Old Boys, it couldn’t have worked out any better.’’

Gidley wondered whether he would even reach 200 games while he battled several serious injuries in 2012 and 2013, when he was restricted to a total of 19 appearances.

But he worked hard in the rehab room and recovered to play 23 games last season, and 20 this year with two left against the Bulldogs and Panthers.

‘‘It was pretty tough to bounce back from those, wondering whether I’d be the same player as before, and those are challenging times when you’re out with long-term injuries and wondering whether you’ll get back to playing consistent first-grade games,’’ he said.

‘‘But in the past two years I’ve knocked out a fair few games and I’ve been proud that I’ve come back from adversity, and the past two seasons have been challenging on and off the field, but last night goes down as one of the greatest memories of my career.’’

Gidley expected to feel a range of emotions in the lead-up to the game against Canterbury but was confident he could control those.

‘‘I’ve played in plenty of games where I’ve had to keep a lid on emotions, and this will be another one,’’ he said.

‘‘Knowing there’s another game after this week is probably good because I still need to focus on what happens post this week.

‘‘I think emotions are great. I’m an emotional bloke, and I ride the highs and lows.

‘‘I love playing a team sport in front of my home fans and my family, I love playing in front of my ex-teammates and the Old Boys, so it’s great that the emotion is there.

‘‘That will hopefully give me a lift, and my teammates a lift, so I think it’s important to embrace the emotions but probably not let it get over the top.’’