Buderus thriving under pressure
The pressure is on, which is just how Newcastle hooker Danny Buderus likes it. After all, what is the alternative at this time of the year? Watching everybody else fight for a place in the finals?
The finals have come early for the seventh-placed Knights, who travelled to Townsville on Thursday for their game against 11th-placed North Queensland at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night.
The Knights are on 25 points. Two wins from their last three games should get them into the finals, but Buderus says they can't afford to think that way. He says they're going out there thinking they've got to win every game and seeing where that leaves them.
The Cowboys, on 22 points, know they will be out of the race if they lose this one. They have to win all three of their remaining games and get to 28 points to be a chance, so the Knights are well aware of what sort of opposition they are going to face.
"The next two weeks against desperate teams – it makes for a great time of the year," Buderus said. "The best thing for us and the Cowboys is that we've still got something to play for, we're still in the hunt.
"The pressure to win is really on now, but that's why you play the game, to get involved in these big games. You're always under pressure, but as long as you're not letting that develop into your being under stress, that's the main thing.
"We know we're under pressure and that's a good thing, because you should be able to react the right way to that, by lifting, but the stressful thing is something we don't want to put ourselves under. Not just yet, anyway."
The Knights are away to 11th-placed Brisbane in the next round after the Broncos had their top-eight hopes further dimmed by a loss to Penrith on Friday night.
Every team's situation could be different if a couple of things that went against them during the season didn't go against them, or the other way around.
The Knights, for instance, would be in 10th place and the Cowboys eighth had the Cowboys won the third-round clash between these two teams at Hunter Stadium, instead of the Knights clearing out to win 36-4.
"You look through the year and there are always the ‘could-haves’ and ‘should-haves’," Buderus said. "That's probably the stuff you think about on Mad Monday, if you haven't made the finals. That's footy. You win some you probably shouldn't have won, as well.
"It's a tight comp, and we all know that. We're just looking forward to getting the next three games out of the way and hopefully having the result that we're in the finals."
The role that Buderus fills now is much different to the one he played when he was an 80-minute man and also representing NSW and Australia. He is 35 now, and he always knew and accepted that in this season – his last – he would be sharing a big slice of the dummy-half duties.
"'Gids' (Kurt Gidley) comes off the bench to play hooker," Buderus said. "Before he came back from injury it was 'Gowie' (Craig Gower) playing that role. I knew it would be that way and it's just reflective of the fact this is my last season.
"I'm just happy to be a part of the squad and do everything I can within that. Whether it's getting out there for 20 minutes, or 40 minutes – whatever I can get out of it. I just want to hold up my end of the bargain. I start the games and usually play for about 20, and go off until probably the last 20.
"Sometimes, your stint might be full of defence, and your next stint might be full of attack, so when you get out there you've got to be ready for anything."
The thing Buderus must ensure while he spends that time on the bench is that he doesn't allow his back to stiffen up. He needed back surgery to get him back on the field after a long lay-off that has restricted him to just nine games so far this season.
"Sitting on the bench after that first 20, I've got to go through my stretching routine and make sure I'm ready for the last stint I have," Buderus said. "But this is the best I've felt for a long time. I'm fine. It's natural to stiffen up when you cool down a bit."
Buderus can't plan for his last game, because he doesn't know when that will be. First, it depends on how the Knights fare over the next few rounds, and then, if they make the finals, what happens there. It would be knock-out football all the way for them.
"I'm ready to finish on a good note and move on to the next chapter of my life," Buderus said. "Our chances of making the finals could come right down to our last-round game at home against Parramatta. Every two points is crucial from here – that's all I'm worried about."