FORMER Kangaroos skipper Danny Buderus says Australia will miss the "luxury"of Kurt Gidley’s all-round versatility but believes hooker Cameron Smith will not necessarily need a breather during the rest of the World Cup campaign.
Gidley was devastated on Tuesday when scans revealed he had torn cartilage in his knee during Australia’s tournament-opening win against New Zealand last Sunday.
The game’s No.1 utility player will undergo surgery next week and is expected to spend four to eight weeks recovering.
In his absence, Australia will have no recognised back-up hooker for their two remaining pool matches, semi-finals and final.
Brisbane fullback Karmichael Hunt was named yesterday as Gidley’s replacement on the bench for Sunday’s clash with England at Telstra Dome, but his lack of experience as hooker will place added pressure on Australian coach Ricky Stuart to get the maximum on-field minutes out of Smith.
Buderus said yesterday he would not be surprised if the Melbourne skipper was able to play the remaining games without a break and statistics support that view.
Smith averaged 78.1 minutes in 23 NRL games for the Storm this season and also played the full 80 in all three games of the 2008 State of Origin series.
He had a four-minute rest against the Kiwis on Sunday, when he was replaced by Gidley, who then spent time at centre and halfback during his 25-minute cameo.
"As you saw the other night, Kurt played three or four positions in 25 minutes, and he gave them the luxury of having someone who could slip in there and give the stars a bit of a rest," Buderus said. "You can throw Kurt on in any position and know he’ll do a good job.
"So they’re going to miss that side of it.
"But I think Cameron Smith will back himself to play the full 80 minutes. He’ll get through that work."
Buderus predicted Stuart would devise a game plan to help Smith stay fresh.
"Coaches have different theories on how to help hookers save energy," he said.
"There might be certain sets where they use someone else to jump into dummy-half.
"So I think he could comfortably get through 80 minutes."
Knights coach Brian Smith, however, believes his namesake could start to feel the strain after a long season.
"Two more games, then a semi-final and a final that could take a toll on him," Smith said.
"I know he’s very resilient, but like the rest of them, he’s in the middle of what should be his recovery time.
"At this point in time, they should all be on holidays.
"They’ve not really had the proper pre-season preparation to get themselves ready for the tournament, nor have they had time to get over the knocks from last season."
Smith said Gidley’s injury highlighted the fact that Australia perhaps should have chosen another multi-skilled handyman in their 24-man squad.
"They appear to have overlooked that utility bit in their selections," Smith said.
"It’s a bit like Melbourne did with Cameron Smith this season. They didn’t have a second-string hooker on their roster, and ultimately they paid the price for it when he got suspended.
"The word is that they [Australia] will use Billy Slater there, but I tell you what, they’ll be like Melbourne and have their fingers crossed that Cameron Smith doesn’t get in trouble there."
Smith was dubious about whether Slater could reprise the hybrid hooker-fullback role that Gidley filled for Newcastle in their win against Penrith this season.
"I’d hate to think that Billy Slater has to play a whole game at hooker," Smith said. "Maybe they can shuffle Karmichael Hunt and Slater.
"I’m sure that could all be worked out without too much disruption.
"But they’ll want to be careful with Cameron Smith."
Teams are not able to replace their injured players from outside their squad, so Australia’s stocks would plummet should Smith happen to suffer an injury.
"If he stays fit, I’m sure they’ll be OK, but if he gets injured it could get very interesting," Buderus said.