TheÂ old hand and the young buck, the twoÂ rakes will go head to head tonight – once the master and the apprentice, after pulling out of the Australian test side several years ago; Danny Buderus all but launched the career of Cameron Smith as the next superstar.Â
Those in Rugby League circles shook their heads at Buderus, but NSW Origin and Knights rakeÂ Danny Buderus does not believe he did the wrong thing in handing the Australian jumper to StormÂ rival CameronÂ Smith.
Buderus willÂ square off against Smith in Melbourne tonight in Monday nightÂ NRL but this is merely a Round 1 clash as the State of Origin series will be the finalÂ arenaÂ in which both players will see who is ultimately the champion for their respective teams.
The KnightsÂ hooker wasÂ heavily criticised when he walked away from the KangaroosÂ squad for the Tri-Nations series in 2006 so he could be with his wife, Kris, for the birth of their bub, Ella Grace.
Smith then went on to stamp himself as not only the best hooker, but one of the NRL’s ultimate all rounders.
“I know people, at the time, criticised me for it,” Buderus said. “Heaps of the ex-players said I was kidding myself. But that’s the decision I made.
“That’s the decision I have to live with. I still feel it was the right thing to do. He went to another level after that series. But I don’t regret the decision I made. Not at all.”
Buderus, who is totally fresh after KnightsÂ boss Brian Smith rested the senior player last round, is quietly confident of reversing form in Melbourne in recent years.
Since a 36-26 victory in 2004, the Knights have beenÂ smashed by the Storm every time they have visited Olympic Park since, to the tune of 144-16 – 48-10 in 2005, 52-6 in 2006 and 44-0 last year. Melbourne have won four in a row at all venues since Newcastle’s 37-18 thumping at EnergyAustralia Stadium on July 30, 2005. “We’re going to take a lot of confidence down there,” he said.
“We’ve beenÂ nailed in the last few years down there. It’s been a horror away fixture. But we’ll take some real good things down there. We’re confident about the way we’re going.”
Asked about Buderus vs Smith ahead of the Origin series, Buderus said: “I’m past all that. If I start thinking like that, I’ll go nuts. It’s just about performance for me.”
Storm coach Craig Bellamy thinks the NRL premiers and 2008 favourites could be in for one of their hardest home game against Newcastle in years.
BellamyÂ said Brian Smith’sÂ renewed Knights are one of the most underrated and dangerous sides in 2008 NRL after istrong back-to-backÂ victories, accounting for theÂ Titans (13-12) and Roosters (34-20).
“They are a quality side,Â that’s been shown so far this year,” he said. “Last Saturday night against Gold Coast, they probably didn’t have too much ball or too much go their way in the second half but, gee, their defence was tremendous.
“Any Brian Smith coached side is certainly very tough and I think they’re showing a nice brand of gutsy footy at present. They’re one of the form teams in the competition, so we certainly know what we’re up against on Monday night.”
AllÂ 8Â Melbournian players in Australia’s 28-12 Centenary Test win against the Kiwis, including Smith and superstar backs Greg Inglis, Billy Slater and Israel Folau, should run on for the home side.
Knights game breaker Kurt Gidley should also player after taking part in the Centenary Test to play at fullback tonight.