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As good as the Newcastle Knights’ late-season charge was last year, skipper Kurt Gidley knows it means little heading into 2014.


Sure, the Knights put the entire NRL competition on notice with their stunning surge through September.


They also built belief too on the back of big wins over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm.


But heading into next Saturday’s season opener against the Penrith Panthers, Gidley says all that success is now a distant memory.


“It's back to square one and we’ve got to earn back that respect again,” Gidley tells Knights TV.


“We need to kick-off where we left off last year and I think we need to make a bit of a statement right from the start of the season.


"I unfortunately missed the momentum as a player on the field last year, but I certainly felt it off the field watching the boys and being so proud of how they played.


"Also that support that we got from our home fans really took me back to 2001 and 1997 when I was a young kid watching the Newcastle Knights.


"So I really felt that momentum from our fans, but we need to build that form again."

Gidley made his return from off-season foot surgery in last weekend’s trial against the Canberra Raiders in Tamworth.


The skipper came on in the final quarter and played five-eighth in his first game since last year's round 25 clash against the Brisbane Broncos.


After an extensive rehabilitation process, Gidley says it was a huge relief to finally return to the footy field.


"It was exciting, because it had been a long process to come back from my foot injury last year," he says.


"I only played a little bit of time towards the backend of the game in Tamworth, but it was great to be playing again."


Gidley's comeback match was capped off with brilliant solo try in the closing stages of the win over the Raiders.


He ran to the line, stepped and found open space to put the ball down under the posts.


For Gidley, it was an effort he jokingly says he didn't think he was capable of achieving after such a long layoff.


"I wasn't sure if I was still going to have any steps left with the two foot injuries last year," he grins.


"It was nice to get a try, but the boys assure me they don't count in trials and they only start from round one.


"So it will be nice to get off to another start like that in round one, but it's going to be plenty of hard work taking on the Panthers and I know all the players are looking forward to it."


Gidley says his foot pulled up fine after last weekend's trial and he is now fully focused on the opening round of the NRL season.


"I've probably done harder training sessions than the game on the weekend, but that's a good thing because I think I've been really testing my foot out," he explains.


"I've been having plenty of long sessions on it and it has been pulling up fine the next day.


"So with a couple of more days under my belt before round one, it's going to be ready to go.


"I know myself personally I'm looking forward to getting back and playing competitive footy again."


Gidley has been blessed to gain some insider knowledge this pre-season from Club legend Danny Buderus, who has taken up a coaching role with the Knights.


He says he has learnt plenty from Buderus over the years, but that has gone to a new level this summer.


"Even as recently as yesterday Danny helped me out with a few tips," he reveals.


"He just pulled me aside after training and gave me a few tips on a few things I could work on.


"I think he is going to be absolutely priceless for myself this year and even for the younger guys coming through."


Gidley believes the Club has come a long way under coach Wayne Bennett in the past two seasons and are ready to covert that momentum into greater success this season.


"I think Wayne has got the right balance here now," he says.


"He has got the players who he knows what they expect of him and what he can get from them.


"We're all starting to believe and buy into what Wayne has been trying to get across in the last few years.


"But as I said we've got to build that belief, confidence and respect again."


That journey starts against the Penrith Panthers on March 8 and Gidley will be there for every challenge along the way.