Ben Blaschke, NRL.com
Most young players get pretty pumped up when they go head to head with a bloke they’ve idolised over the years, so what happens when you come up against two of them? That’s the scenario facing Gold Coast hooker Matt Srama this weekend when he faces off against Newcastle’s new dummy-half rotation of Danny Buderus and Craig Gower.
Buderus makes his return from back surgery this weekend and will partner recent recruit Gower for the first time since the former Penrith playmaker signed with the Knights three weeks ago.
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For Srama, it’s a dream come true but one he is already relishing ahead of the Gold Coast’s trip to Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
“I think I would have been in primary school when they were debuting so it’s a surreal feeling to be playing against them,” the young Titans hooker said. “I still pinch myself every day when I think that I’m playing against guys like that. I thought it never would have happened but it will be a good test for me. That’s why I like coming up against world class players.”
While Srama said he had always been a fan of Gower, he reserved particular praise for Buderus.
“He is someone I’ve watched a fair bit over the years,” he said. “When he was playing for NSW back in the day I was really impressed with him. He was probably the best hooker in the world at the time with his running game and his passing game. He has still got those attributes now so he hasn’t lost any of it. He is definitely a dangerous player and I’ll be doing my best to put one over him this weekend.”
Chances are Srama will have plenty of opportunity to test himself against the Knights veterans, too. Last week the 22-year-old played his first 80-minute game of the year in the absence of interchange hooker Sam Irwin and said he was keen to continue playing longer minutes in the future.
“It was good to have that opportunity [last week],” Srama said. “It’s obviously harder than playing 40 or 60 minutes fitness-wise but I’m one of those players that will find my groove after the 30- or 40-minute mark and the rest is a breeze. But it was good, I enjoyed it. Hopefully I can play a few more 80 minute games whilst guys are returning from injury.
“Obviously I’d like to become a regular 80-minute player sometime in the future too. Whether the coach thinks I’m ready for that right now is a different story but I honestly don’t mind playing half a game or three-quarters of a game and rotating with another hooker. It’s just about what’s best for the team and what John [Cartwright] thinks is best for our club. But of course every player wants to play a full game and I want to in the future but I’m still young and still learning so whatever happens, as long as I’m in the team I’m very happy.”
After the disappointments of the past two seasons in which the Titans finished last and ninth respectively, Srama and fellow youngsters Albert Kelly and Aidan Sezer have played a huge role in the side’s resurgence in 2013.
Considered one of the best dummy-half prospects in the game, he has even been tipped as a long-term replacement for Cameron Smith in the Queensland outfit although Srama isn’t getting carried away with such lofty dreams.
I’ve just been trying to be consistent each week and I’ve been pretty happy with that so far,” he said. “I’m still young and still learning the game so the main thing for me is to keep learning and work hard on my defence.
“Being a smaller fellow, they do target you in defence so I’ve been working on not trying to miss too many tackles and really dominating. The game is really big on the wrestling aspect so I’ve been working really hard with our wrestling coaches to get a gauge on that.
“I’ve still got my lower leg technique that I’m working hard on with Trevor Gillmeister as well. It’s a good combination to have and that’s what I’ve been really trying to improve on.”
Srama said the Titans had taken a lot of confidence out of last week’s grinding win over Melbourne but would need to be on their toes against a Newcastle side desperate to end a four-match losing streak.“They’re a hard team to put your finger on,” he said. “One week they’re poor performers and the next they’re the best team in the comp so it’s a really hard thing to prepare for. They’ve got class players right across the park so if we can squeeze out a win it will do our confidence a lot of good.”