KNIGHTS skipper Kurt Gidley needs only to emerge unscathed from tomorrow’s clash with the Warriors in Auckland to be named in the NSW squad for the State of Origin series opener.
Despite speculation Gidley may have been overlooked as NSW’s bench utility for Cronulla’s Luke Lewis, it is understood he was contacted yesterday by Blues coach Laurie Daley to tell him his name would be in the squad announced tomorrow night.
But there were apparently no such calls for Gidley’s teammates Willie Mason and Akuila Uate, who have missed the cut.
Newcastle’s only other representative in Origin I, to be played at ANZ Stadium on June 5, will be Queenslander Darius Boyd, who was reportedly interviewed yesterday by the NRL’s integrity unit as part of the investigation into the Ben Te’o affair.
Boyd and Gidley will both have to stand down from Newcastle’s daunting away game against South Sydney tomorrow week.
The Knights flew across the Tasman yesterday, where they expect to face a Warriors team smarting after a 62-6 hammering from Penrith last week – the heaviest loss in their history.
Under new coach Matthew Elliott, the Warriors have been dismal this season, winning only two of their first 10 games.
But even though fifth-placed Newcastle are coming off a resounding 44-8 win against Canterbury, their record in Auckland should ensure there is no complacency.
Last season’s 24-19 win at Mt Smart was the Knights’ only success there in their past seven visits.
“Our record over there is not that great,” Newcastle playmaker Jarrod Mullen admitted.
“I don’t know the last time we won over there, except for last year.
“We got that hoodoo off our back last year . . . it’s a day game and that definitely helps us.”
In-form impact player Adam Cuthbertson said Newcastle wanted to play at a similarly high level to last weekend, after a season of fluctuating form.
“We need to string a few games together and learn how to do that,” he said.
Cuthbertson said the Warriors were always a handful up front, regardless of their position on the points table.
“They’ve got a really good forward pack,” he said.
“They’re really big and really skilful, so it’s going to be a great challenge for our middle men, just like last week. I dare say they’ll be out to prove something in front of their home fans.
“They’re going to be hurting. They’re going to want to come out firing and turn their season around.”
Warriors centre Ben Henry has been ruled out with a season-ending knee injury. Carlos Tuimavave is expected to replace him in the starting side.
Uate is likely to start on Newcastle’s right edge, replacing the luckless Kevin Naiqama, who scored two tries against the Bulldogs.
The presence of Naiqama, Timana Tahu and Chris Houston in Newcastle’s NSW Cup side puts the onus on their first-grade counterparts to perform.
Kiwi international lock Jeremy Smith will also be eligible to return next week from a six-game suspension, adding to the options at Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett’s disposal.