Water Cooler: Gidley set for No.7 in 2011?
Their season may be over but Newcastle coach Rick Stone admits he has plenty to mull over in the off-season after his decision to move captain Kurt Gidley to halfback five weeks ago sparked a late surge.<br><br>Gidley is keen to return to his preferred fullback spot in 2011 and Stone is reluctant to stand in his way, but the Knights’ coach today refused to rule out making the move permanent after his side almost pulled off a stunning second-half comeback win over minor premiers St George Illawarra on Saturday night.<br><br>“It’s possible,” Stone told NRL.com when asked if Gidley might retain the No.7 jersey next year.<br><br>“At this stage I think fullback is still his best spot but Kurt is always an option for us there (at halfback) and if we work through the summer and think he is the best option for us I won’t hesitate to play him there.<br><br>“Having said that, we’ll have to make sure we’re also comfortable with the fullback we’re going to use so at this stage Kurt is likely to play fullback I would think.”<br><br>Stone, though, has been suitably impressed by Gidley’s performance in the No.7 jersey and has no doubt that the shift played a huge role in transforming the side into the dazzling attacking unit that has scored 134 points in their past five matches.<br><br>Newcastle great Andrew Johns also predicted more time in the halves for Gidley next season when asked on Channel 9 yesterday.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=860&fixtureid=50020102402&videoquality=1&type=try&period=2&time=2261" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Gidley create a brilliant try for Isaac de Gois against the Broncos.</a><br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=858&fixtureid=50020102206&videoquality=1&type=try&period=1&time=314" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Gidley cut through the Bulldogs in Round 22 for a beautiful solo try.</a><br><br>The former NSW captain was shifted to halfback following Newcastle’s Round 20 loss to North Queensland and has since helped them to wins over Manly, Canterbury and Brisbane and narrow losses to high-flying St George Illawarra and the Warriors.<br><br>“He played in the halves a couple of years ago and I think he knows more now about composure, taking on a game plan and working through a game plan,” Stone said. <br><br>“He still has a little bit of work to do on his kicking game to be a real high-quality halfback but the running presence and attacking presence he brings has been a massive thing for our team.”<br><br>Stone’s decision next year will likely come down to how 20-year-old Beau Henry – who will join the club from St George Illawarra in 2011 – performs during the pre-season.<br><br>Newcastle have high hopes for Henry after two brilliant seasons with the Dragons’ Toyota Cup side but his real test will come when he moves north and begins training with the NRL squad.<br><br>“We’re probably going to give Beau a chance to team up with Jarrod Mullen,” Stone said. <br><br>“But he is an untried kid in the NRL – he hasn’t played a game. <br><br>“Like a number of sides we’ve been trying to find the right kid that can give us that composure and discipline in the halves and we’ve got a couple of good young kids we hope can do that.<br><br>“Beau has a lot of potential. We’d like to think in the next few years he will play first grade and take some pressure off Jarrod.”<br><br>However, former Newcastle five-eighth and premiership-winning coach Michael Hagan said it was hard to ignore the stability Gidley had brought to the side since donning the No.7 jersey.<br><br>“He probably has a better influence on the team because he is closer to the forwards and influences them in attack and defence,” Hagan said.<br><br>“I guess Rick has to weigh it up against the downside of him not bringing the ball back all the time but you’d have to think that if Kurt had been in the halves earlier in the year they might have won a couple more games.”<br><br>Hagan said the decision to move Gidley into the halves had the added benefit of easing the pressure on Mullen, who has also produced his best form of the season over the past few months.<br><br>“When Jarrod first came into the side he had Andrew Johns alongside him but he has gone through a couple of years now without that real dominant player alongside him,” he said.<br><br>“That’s the upside – it not only helps Kurt’s game but also Jarrod’s and therefore the team as well.”<br><br>While Stone said that Gidley would likely spend time in a number of positions throughout the course of games next season, his partnership with Mullen could also prove decisive.<br><br>“I think ‘Mullo’ is very comfortable with Kurt,” he said. “I remember a few years back when Michael Hagan was coaching and Joey was out injured at the start of the season. Jarrod and Kurt were playing in the halves and although Jarrod was a young bloke at the time I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw early in the season at training and in the trial games. <br><br>“At the moment it has come back full circle, I suppose. <br><br>“It is still just another option for us but I think Kurt would play well in any position. He has played at [No.] 9 and probably a bit at [No.] 13. <br><br>“Whether it is fullback, half or five-eighth it doesn’t matter – he is the best utility player in the world as far as I’m concerned. <br><br>“We’ve just got to make sure that wherever he plays in our team complements the rest of the side.”