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Knights' Hilder makes most of NRL chance

Like the NRL side he plays for, Newcastle journeyman Matt Hilder has found form, confidence and momentum at the right time of the year.
Knights' Hilder makes most of NRL chance
by AAP

By Rob Forsaith

SYDNEY, Sept 24 AAP - Like the NRL side he plays for, Newcastle journeyman Matt Hilder has found form, confidence and momentum at the right time of the year.

Up until the final round of the regular season, Hilder had managed two NRL games in the least productive year of his 11-season, three-club career.

But following a recall for the Knights' 54-6 demolition of Parramatta, a match that served as the perfect tune-up for sudden-death finals victories over Canterbury and Melbourne, things have changed dramatically for the 31-year-old.

Hilder has made the bench utility role his own after captain Kurt Gidley's season-ending foot injury, with his latest spark being a try against the Storm that proved pivotal in the Knights' 18-16 win last Saturday night.

"I spent pretty much all year in reserve grade. Just by chance, (with) a few injuries, and suddenly you get a start," Hilder said ahead of Saturday night's preliminary final against the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.

"Then the boys have done really well the last couple of weeks and got us into the last round of the semis. So very much looking forward to the weekend."

Hilder noted coach Wayne Bennett had some simple advice when he was recalled for the clash with the Eels: your time on the park will be short, so make an impact.

"He spoke to me when I first came back, telling me that I'm not going to play long minutes out there," he said.

"I'd come on maybe 10-15 (minutes) before halftime ... then I'll be on for another 15 after.

"It's not a hell of a long time out there, so he just wants me to go as hard as I can. Get some line speed going and do a good job."

Hilder has done just that, to the point where it's hard to make a case for an underdone Craig Gower taking his spot on the Knights' bench.

"Gowy's been tossed up (as a potential replacement for Hilder) ever since I sort of came back into the side. So I just have to prepare like I'm playing," he said.

"That's what I've been doing the last few weeks."

Gower is yet to resume full contact work after undergoing neck surgery two weeks ago, placing him in major doubt for the weekend's grand-final playoff.


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