KNIGHTS captain Kurt Gidley is concentrating on the team’s aspirations for this season and not his own plans beyond it.
In his first appearance of the pre-season, Gidley will play fullback in the trial against Canberra in Queanbeyan on Saturday with a view to pulling on the No.1 jersey for the first NRL game against the Warriors at Hunter Stadium on March 7.
The 32-year-old former NSW and Australian utility comes off contract at the end of the season, and there has been speculation that he plans to follow the lead of older brother Matt and play out his career in the English Super League.
Now the Knights chief executive officer, Matt Gidley played 221 games from 1996 to 2006 then spent four seasons at St Helens before retiring at the end of 2010 and returning to Newcastle to join the club’s front office.
Kurt passed Matt on the list of all-time games played last year and now sits on 229, equal third with Tony Butterfield behind Danny Buderus (257) and Andrew Johns (249). Staying and playing on in Newcastle, winding down his career in England or retiring are the three realistic options Kurt will consider.
Joining another NRL club would seem highly unlikely considering his blood ties to the Knights and his status as a staunchly proud born-and-bred Novocastrian.
Kurt said he would speak to his brother, coach Rick Stone and Knights football director Michael Hagan at the appropriate time to discuss his future and how that will impact on the retention of the club’s rising stars.
Talented young outside backs including Sione, Chanel and Pat Mata’utia, Dane Gagai and Jake Mamo are unsigned beyond this year, and Mamo has been earmarked as Kurt’s potential successor at fullback. ‘‘I haven’t really got a time frame,’’ Gidley said.
‘‘I’ll have a pretty good chat with my brother and Stoney and Hages.
‘‘They’re three guys who I really respect and I can sit down and have an honest conversation with them about my future, and also the club’s future, because we’ve got some great young kids coming through and we need to make sure they’re long-term Newcastle Knights too.’’
Matt said he and Kurt had already spoken briefly about his future and they agreed to put off formal discussions until later in the year.
After missing just one week of training due to a pre-Christmas calf strain, Kurt said he was keen for a run before embarking on his 15th NRL campaign, and seventh as skipper.
‘‘I’ve been fully fit and I’ve got through all the training, and I’ve wanted to be a part of as much as I can too,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m excited for the footy to start rolling around again.’’
Meanwhile, the Knights believe the Mata’utia brothers are close to settling a dispute with their manager, Chris Haddad, which would clear the way for the club to begin retention talks.
The brothers have signed letters of intent for four-year contracts with Canterbury, starting next year, but under NRL rules the Knights have until round 13 this season to make satisfactory counter offers to keep them in Newcastle colours.
The NRL is overseeing arbitration as the brothers try to part company with Haddad but it is understood he is yet to agree to a compensation settlement.
‘‘We’re getting a bit closer there,’’ Stone told Ten Eyewitness News on Thursday.
Haddad was reluctant to comment on Thursday night, restricting his response to: ‘‘Everything is still up in the air at the moment so we’ll just see what happens.’’