Kade Snowden is the Knights’ top pick so far for the All Stars match. – Picture by Simone De PeakKNIGHTS ‘‘big three’’ Kurt Gidley, Aku Uate and Darius Boyd are unavailable for the NRL All Stars game in February, leaving former NSW and Australian prop Kade Snowden as the club’s most popular player in the final days of preliminary voting.
Gidley represented the Knights in the first two All Stars games. He was voted in by the public for the inaugural match in 2010 and was one of coach Wayne Bennett’s two selections this year.
Uate was voted in as the Knights’ representative this year and, as a NSW and Australian player and two-time Dally M winger of the year, would have been a runaway pick for the game against the Indigenous All Stars at Skilled Park on February 4 if available.
But the Fijian-born flyer underwent minor surgery on his knee late last month and he and Gidley, who had clean-up operations on his ankle and knee in October which ruled him out of the Four Nations tour, are yet to begin full pre-season training.
Boyd, who like Uate represented Australia in the Four Nations tournament in the United Kingdom last month, was excused from summer conditioning with his new Newcastle teammates until they returned from their Christmas break on January 2.
Gidley suffered a knee injury when tackled by former Knights teammate Cory Paterson in the inaugural All Stars game and missed the first five rounds of the NRL season.
Snowden and former Queensland forward Neville Costigan are leading the Newcastle voting, ahead of Chris Houston, Junior Sa’u, Jarrod Mullen and Wes Naiqama.
Former Knights captain Danny Buderus, who has recently been added to the voting list, could make a late surge this week to challenge Snowden and Costigan as the club’s two forwards.
If there is no change to the current order by midnight Friday, Snowden and Costigan (forwards) and Sa’u and Mullen (backs) will be the four Newcastle players on the final short list of 64.
A Belmont North junior who captained the Knights to an SGBall (under-18) premiership and Jersey Flegg (under-20) grand final, Snowden has rejoined the Knights after spending the past four seasons at Cronulla, from where he represented NSW and Australia.
The 24-year-old former Australian Schoolboys skipper must still prove he has overcome a bulging disc in his neck. If he struggles with contact drills at training next month he may have surgery which could delay his start to next season.
Online stage-one voting at www.nrl南京夜网.au/allstars closes at 11.59pm on Friday, and the top two forwards and backs from each club will form a final short list of 64 players.
Bennett, who took the reins at the Knights three weeks ago and is preparing for his third game as NRL All Stars coach, will then classify them into positions for final selections.
Stage-two voting will be held from December 27 until January 18, allowing the public to choose one player from each club. Those 16 will join New Zealand Test captain Benji Marshall, who will lead the NRL All Stars, interim Australian captain Cameron Smith, and two ‘‘coach’s picks’’ in the final 20-man squad.
The Knights do not have an Indigenous All Stars representative.