SUPERSTAR: Danny Buderus trains with the Knights.TO fully comprehend how much it means to Danny Buderus to be back at the Newcastle Knights, you have to understand how much he loved his time in Leeds.
Some Aussie expats, including Willie Mason by all accounts, fail to settle abroad and can’t wait to catch the first flight home.
Buderus and his young family enjoyed every minute.
He played in big games at famous stadiums like Wembley, Old Trafford and Elland Road, in front of adoring crowds singing his name.
He won a Super League grand final and even enjoyed a taste of an Origin-like atmosphere, captaining the inaugural International Exiles side against the English national team.
He embraced the Yorkshire culture and hospitality, did his share of sightseeing in Europe, and made friends to last a lifetime.
With another year to run on his contract with the Rhinos, the easy option would have been to play out his career at Headingley, where he was treated like royalty.
But content as he was, deep down inside Buderus felt he had unfinished business.
When he left Newcastle at the end of 2008, his arm in a sling as he nursed a torn biceps, it was not on his terms.
As he subsequently revealed in his 2009 autobiography, the main reason the champion hooker parted company with the Knights was his relationship, or lack thereof, with then coach Brian Smith.
Even though Smith was sacked less than a year after Buderus’s exit, the former Newcastle, NSW and Australian skipper assumed his days in the NRL were done.
‘‘Without a doubt, the way things were going, with my mindset especially, I was probably thinking I’d have a couple of years with Leeds,’’ he said.
‘‘But I got out of the bubble of Newcastle, into the big wide, world of being overseas, and I appreciated it and never took anything for granted.
‘‘But the NRL, you watch it from afar, and I’m very privileged to be back in that competition again and I’m looking forward to pulling that jumper I love so much back on, hopefully in a team all the community is proud of.’’
A 220-game stalwart for the Knights, Buderus will be 34 by the time next season kicks off.
But if a permanent, beaming smile is any indication of enthusiasm, his birth certificate should be declared null and void.
‘‘To be honest with you, I’ve blanked all that negativity in my mind about my age,’’ he said.
‘‘I think that’s the thing to do. ‘‘I’m happy to be out here challenging myself against the young guys … you have to take precautions and train hard, and that nullifies your age and hopefully you can play as well as the young guys.’’
During Smith’s tenure at Newcastle, Buderus and fellow veterans Steve Simpson and Adam MacDougall were regularly excused from the hardest pre-season yakka.
Smith’s logic was that he did not want to put unnecessary miles on the odometers of vintage Rolls Royces.
But under new coach Wayne Bennett and high-performance manager Jeremy Hickmans, Buderus said there were no such exemptions, and he did not want any.
‘‘Everyone’s treated the same, and that’s the way it should be,’’ he said.
While his teammates have unanimously labelled this the most gruelling pre-season of their careers, Buderus has been relishing the workload.
‘‘The body’s a bit sore, but that’s to be expected,’’ Buderus said.
‘‘I’m really enjoying it. Everything’s got a purpose.
‘‘Training’s hard but specific. You know the reasons why you’re doing it.
‘‘That makes it rewarding and also enjoyable.’’
He sympathises with his former teammates back in Leeds who are ‘‘doing a lot of running up and down on the fake turf’’.
A premiership winner at Newcastle in 2001, Buderus enjoyed a farewell lap of honour with the Rhinos after their 32-16 win against St Helens in October.
Only a select group of players have won the ultimate prize in both hemispheres.
And rugby league’s premier historian, David Middleton, said Harry Bath – Balmain (1946-47), Warrington (1953-54 and 1954-55) and St George (1957-59) – was the lone player he could establish to have secured premierships in Australia before and after titles in England.
But if Buderus has an opportunity to put his name alongside Bath’s in the code’s folklore, he has also been around long enough to realise no trophies are presented before a season has even kicked off.
‘‘You hear a bit around the traps about expectations, but there’s a lot of work before we can even be considered title contenders,’’ he said.
‘‘This group aren’t even thinking along those lines.
‘‘There’s a lot of young guys there and everyone’s got to have their heads on and not let any of those outside influences affect them.
‘‘It’s going to be a tough season. Where there’s expectation, there’s pressure.’’
You get the impression Danny Buderus wouldn’t want it any other way.