Old boys: Recruit Craig Gower, right, chats with Willie Mason at Knights training this week. Photo: Max Mason HubersJohn Lang combined with Craig Gower to win the Panthers’ most recent premiership and Gower’s former mentor believes he can still do a job in the NRL.
The former Australian representative is expected to be rushed into the Newcastle side to play his first NRL game since 2007 after signing a short-term deal. He has represented Italy in rugby union and captained the London Broncos in the English Super League since his last appearance in the NRL.
Now, as part of an 18-man Knights squad, Gower has travelled to Melbourne to play the defending premiers on Sunday afternoon. Lang coached the Gower-captained 2003 Penrith side to grand final success against Sydney Roosters.
Lang said Knights coach Wayne Bennett knew exactly what he was looking for when he recruited Gower at the age of 35.
”Wayne would have been looking for a tough professional who can do the job for him,” Lang said.
”He won’t be looking for someone to star.
”I don’t think Wayne is looking for him to have a big impact but someone who will do the job. I think it’ll be unfair to expect too much of him.”
Gower, who made his NRL debut in 1996, played 238 games for the Panthers. While Lang said he hadn’t spoken with him or seen much of Gower play recently, he said he could see parallels between Gower’s return and Bennett rushing Allan Langer from England to star for Queensland in the 2001 State of Origin decider.
”Craig was a guy who led by example,” Lang said. ”He is a doer and that’s him in a nutshell. He had good skills. He is a guy who loved the game and while your body holds together, well, why not [keep playing].
”He is a tough competitor … He has had a lot of injuries over the years.”
His comeback eventuated following long-term injuries to key Knights players Kurt Gidley and Danny Buderus. Gidley is not expected to return from a foot injury for at least another two weeks and Buderus is a week-to-week proposition with his back. With Gower declaring his time at hooker had passed, it is expected he’ll move to the halves when he comes in with Tyrone Roberts relieving Travis Waddell of the hooking duties.
”I wouldn’t know what his form is like,” Lang said. ”There’s a lot of players that I’ve coached in the past that are still playing and you’re always interested in how they are going.”
Gower won’t be the only change to a Newcastle side which has lost its past three. He is expected to replace Adam Clydsdale on the bench with Adam Cuthbertson to come in for the injured David Fa’alogo. Winger Akuila Uate is an outside chance of making an early return from rib-cartilage damage and is in Melbourne with the team.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.