Turns out the rumours were true – Kurt Gidley is returning to the nib Newcastle Knights for the NRL Nines tournament next weekend.
For the first time since 2015, the utility who spent 251 games at the Knights, including 123 as captain, will once again don the red and blue after being asked personally by coach Adam O’Brien a few weeks ago.
While the former NSW Blues skipper was incredibly honoured and excited, there was just one thing he needed to do before confirming – he wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to be the only Old Boy in Perth.
“I was excited for the opportunity, but I wanted to make sure there was a couple of other Old Boys playing within the tournament,” Gidley said.
“I rang ‘Bobcat’ – Andrew Ryan – and we had a gentlemen’s agreement that if I played, he’d play, and vice-versa.
Confirmed! Kurt Gidley pumped for Nines comeback
“We’re both passionate about the clubs that we played for and we’re very grateful to be able to pull on the jumper again.
“It was a big surprise [to be asked] but I’m looking forward to be back around the playing group and around some younger guys that I hadn’t played with or met before.”
Since that phone call with the former Bulldogs premiership-winning captain, multiple names from the past have confirmed their place in NRL Nines squads such as Corey Parker (Broncos), Jason Nightingale (Dragons) and Pat Richards (Tigers).
Although Gidley has been away from the game for over two years after retiring with Warrington Wolves at the conclusion of the 2017 English Super League season, he’s confident his fitness is still up to the task.
Watch: Matty Johns message, Fox League shoot
The same can’t be said though for the impending bumps and bruises he’s about to return to though.
“I still keep pretty active these days and keep a little exercise crew with some ex-teammates in Mark Hughes, Danny Buderus, Chief, my brother Matt, [Steve] Crowey and Jarrod O’Doherty…we keep things ticking along,” he said.
“I guess the physicality of the game is a part I’m not jumping out of my skin for.
Jesse Southwell: Behind the scenes of historic signing
“When you finish playing your professional career you want to keep testing yourself with little different events whether that’s fun runs, or swims, or whatever challenges you can do.
“It’s hard to knock back an opportunity like this as another challenge.”
There’s few players still at the club that had the chance to play with Gidley, however one of those was a young, debuting Sione Mata’utia back in 2014-15.
Now heading into his seventh NRL season, Mata’utia will link back up with his former captain and he’s not the only current player the returning legend is keen to hopefully play alongside with Kurt Mann another name springing to mind.
“I’m not sure if Sione’s playing, [but] he’s probably one of the guys who I did play with before I finished up with at the Knights,” he said.
“I’ve always really respected Sione for how mature he was when he came into first grade and his toughness.
“I’ve watched Mann play when he was originally at the club in the early days and I know there’s been some similarities between him and myself.
“We’ve both played a number of positions so I’ve admired how he’s moved from role to role…I love his competitiveness to start with so I’m looking forward to playing with Kurt amongst some of the other guys.”