Fit-again Gidley's unfinished business

In 2001 a fresh-faced 19-year-old five-eighth by the name of Kurt Gidley made his debut for the Newcastle Knights. Since then, almost every aspect of Gidley's career has at one time been at the centre of debate. 

The Knights captain, who is somewhat of a polarising figure in both the Hunter and the NRL in general, has never strayed far from fanfare and critics alike. 

A former NSW skipper and Australian Test player, Gidley's presence on the representative scene, his luckless run of injuries, and even his best position have all been the cause of debates among footy fans.

Regardless of the range of opinions of him as a player, there has always been one constant of Gidley's career – his fitness.

A competitor on Channel Nine's recent Nutri-Grain Sports Star Showdown program, it was revealed Gidley has a body fat percentage of just five per cent. 

One of the NRL's fittest athletes since his debut, Gidley said hard work and dedication in training had been the key to his success.

"I've always been a good trainer. Ever since I was a young kid I've always enjoyed running, and training hard," Gidley told NRL.com. "Once I started to achieve different standards then I felt I had to live up to them. So to go out and not achieve what I've previously achieved really disappoints me. 

"I have my own standards that I feel I have to live up to and I've always tried to equal or better them, which I have the majority of the time. 

"My fitness has definitely been the main ingredient of my career. It's certainly how I got a start at the Knights. In the 17s I was never the most skilled or developed player so that held me back from getting a start originally.

"I've never been one of the strongest in the gym but certainly on the park, I've always tried to be a leader… whether it is with fitness, agility or whatever it might be in terms of my own standards. I probably wouldn't be where I am today if I wasn't really driven about that aspect of my game."

The other constant throughout Gidley's career has been the frustration of frequent injuries.

The 32-year-old's hamstring, quadriceps, knee, groin, feet and shoulder have all caused grief throughout his 15 years as a professional footballer. But in a nice change of pace, the veteran is pleased to have only missed one game in the past 12 months.

"I had a shoulder reconstruction in 2012 and injured both feet in 2013 so it was a real confidence booster to play in almost every game last year," he said.

"I think the recovery part after injuries, I've always been pretty sensible and always listened to my physios and trainers and I do everything I can in the rehab phase to get back on the park

"My injuries have never held me back from my fitness standards. Injuring both my feet could've easily held me back from my peak fitness but I've come back from those really well and at 32 I'm happy with where my fitness is at the moment."

His fitness, along with his pure utility value, is a huge reason why Gidley has played 12 times each for New South Wales and Australia.

Adept in playing almost every position in the backline plus hooker, Gidley's versatility has proven to be both a blessing and a curse with regular visits to the bench becoming the norm when it came to rep games.

Possessing one of the weirdest representative records in recent memory, having captained his state from the bench, Gidley refused to say his representative career was over but is focusing on filling the fullback role permanently for Newcastle in 2015. 

"I'm not coming out and saying I've retired from representative football altogether because I think it's a great achievement any time you can play for your country or your state that's for sure," Gidley said.

"Those times playing rep footy are a great memory in my life, but it's also not at the forefront of mind at the moment. But what I will say is that any player who is picked for New South Wales or Australia they deserve to play there because their form warrants it.

"On that note, I'll never take playing and captaining New South Wales for granted, it was a very special moment leading my state out to a packed stadium."

With a grand final victory the only feat Gidley is yet to achieve in the game so far, the 229-game Knight hasn't thought about life after football just yet and isn't prepared to put a number on the years remaining in his career.

"I'm obviously signed for this season," Gidley said. "And we'll wait and see how the body is going and how the mind is going and we'll make a decision when the time comes."