Gidley carving out a new home in the halves

Kurt Gidley’s shift to halfback has coincided with his side’s late surge in form – form he’s keen to show off in front of the Newcastle old boys this weekend.

It may not be his first choice of position, but it’s hard to deny the team’s form since Kurt Gidley moved back to the halves. And even though he’d happily return to the no.1, the Knights captain is content to whatever works best for his side.

“I think if I had a choice right at the moment, and everyone was fit, I’d probably still choose fullback, because that’s where I’ve played the majority of my footy over the last few years,” Gidley says. “But it’s obviously what Stoney thought was best for the team, and I think it’s been working.

“It’s something a bit different to playing at fullback. I still played as a bit of a playmaker when I was fullback, but it’s obviously a bit more of a [playmaking] role there now, and defensively I’m a lot more involved as well, which I’ve enjoyed.”

Gidley debuted as a five-eighth back in 2001 and, apart from some games in his second year, played in the halves until 2007 before moving to fullback for the best part of three seasons.

But as Newcastle looked to cover injuries in the no.6 and 7 jerseys, and with the subsequent rise of the in-form Shannon McDonnell at the back, the return of Gidley to the halves has proved a masterstroke, with the Knights having won four of their six games with Gidley at first receiver.

“It’s still something I’ve got to work on, and what works best for me and the team, but I’m definitely playing more of a halves role. At fullback, there are times when I play as a bit of a half or five-eighth, but it’s definitely locked in at the halves at the moment. I’ve got to keep chipping away at it to get better, but it’s been good at the moment.”

Gidley admits that the switch of positions has also coincided with the superb form of five-eighth Jarrod Mullen – highlighted by Mullen’s strong performance against the Broncos that included three try assists.

“I’ve played with Mullo a few times in the halves, and probably we’re going better now than we ever have there, and a fair bit goes down to him,” Gidley said.

“He’s been playing some great footy himself and has been really, running the ball, passing, and kicking really good. He’s been probably been playing his footy at this back end of the year.”

But Gidley acknowledges his partnership with Mullen may not break up as fast as first thought, given the form of McDonnell, saying the 23-year-old could have what it takes to remain in the custodian role if Rick Stone decides to keep the status quo.

“He’s been playing good for us at fullback, and has certainly been filling that role pretty well. He’s been a good replacement for me... I guess that’s what coaches look at when they move someone from one position to another – whether their replacement can be up for it, and certainly Mac has been good for us there.”

The combination of Gidley and Mullen will be something to look out for during the next two weeks as the Knights push to keep their slim finals hopes alive, but there will be bigger things on Gidley’s mind when he leads out the Knights for the annual Old Boys Day – one of the biggest days in the club’s calendar.

“It’s a game that you always have a look at at the start of the year and see who you’re playing, because it’s an enjoyment playing in front of the ex-players who have played here at Newcastle, it’s always a good crowd, and it’s always a good match. It’s a good lead-up to this one again, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the Old Boys as we run out.

“We’ve had a pretty good run with our home games during this back end of the year. We dropped a few at the start of the year which was disappointing, but we’ve had a decent run with our home games [recently] and we’d like to finish with a win against the Saints this Saturday night.

“I’m just looking at this week and that’s what we’ve been doing during the last month, is just making sure we look at the team ahead only a week at a time, and that’s what’s been working for us. If we get the results by the end of Round 26 we might be a chance, but we’re certainly just worrying about this game at the moment.”