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Making sausages and captaining from the bench

In his rookie NRL season, Kurt Gidley was holding down a fulltime job.

It was 2001 and Gidley was a third-year butcher's apprentice.

Long before he would become an international and captain NSW, the versatile Newcastle Knight was a hungry teenage eager to earn his strips.

"I was still working, I was a butcher from when I finished school," Gidley told the Our Town Our Team podcast.

"I finished year 10 and took up a butcher's apprenticeship at my local shopping centre.

"My football life and work life just worked hand in hand. I learnt some really good life skills working for a small business and earning my workmates respect. It taught me some really good values and work ethic and that transferred to my football career.

"I made my debut towards the back-end of 2001. Michael Hagan was coach and I was still working in the butcher's shop."

That year he was on a semi-part time deal hardly worth the paper it was written on.

Still, it was an incredible experience and one which set him up for his first full NRL pre-season a year later.

"In 2001 I played predominantly reserve grade which was a wonderful year for myself," he recalled.

"We had some younger guys like myself, Clint Newton, John Morris and an umber of others working our way up the grade.

"Reserve grade played before first grade every week. We had guys like Clinton O'Brien, Glenn Grief and any other guys coming back from injury or dropped. You were playing with first graders you looked up to. It was a great stepping stone for myself and the other guys.

"The week leading up to the grand final, we were able to train with the first-grade team and experience the celebrations after it."

His second game in first grade was the World Club Challenge in 2002 with his career taking off shortly after that.

He made his Country Origin debut in 2004 before gaining Origin selection in 2007.

Origin saw Gidley's game go to another level.

The 2008 season was a breakout one for the utility with Gidley taking the Knights captaincy the following year.

He also skippered the Blues for the first time at fullback but in 2010 he was named on the bench for the second game of the series.

He maintained the captaincy but it was a unique experience for the versatile playmaker.

"I captained 2009 and game one 2010 and they wanted to move Jarryd Hayne to fullback which was fair enough, he was one fire at that stage," he recalled.

"Belly (Craig Bellamy) didn't want to take the captaincy off me because his plans were for me to come on at hook for 60 minutes.

"I was going to be the captain for most of the game. Trent Barrett ended up captaining the actual run on team. I have so much respect for Craig Bellamy, he refused to take the captaincy off me."

Hear more about the story in the podcast above!