Head to head: Ballin v Gidley
With Origin around the corner, we start this edition of Head to Head with a little piece of trivia: Matt Ballin’s sole game for Queensland in 2010 was also the last game Kurt Gidley started for NSW, captaining his side in a 28-24 Blues loss.
Fast-forward to 2014, and while Gidley is no certainty for NSW and Ballin waits patiently for Cameron Smith to relinquish his hold on the Queensland no.9 jersey, both are playing consistent football, having started every game this year.
In fact, Gidley is enjoying his most uninterrupted start to a season since 2009 and will play his most consecutive games in one position since 2007.
Despite not playing his preferred fullback position, the 31-year-old has been solid replacement for Danny Buderus, averaging almost 35 tackles per game.
They are promising signs for the Novocastrians, with Gidley not having played a full season for more than a decade.
In contrast, Ballin hasn’t missed a match since the opening round of 2008 – a feat even more impressive considering the 30-year-old regularly tops the tackle charts each round and has made more tackles than any other NRL player.
The man affectionately known as the NRL’s Mr Nice Guy averages almost 46 tackles per game in 2014 and believe it or not, he’s not only making more tackles than last season but remarkably running almost 10 more meters per game.
In many ways, these are two athletes from different moulds: Ballin is Manly’s workhorse who’s contribution often goes unnoticed while Gidley is the Knights Mr Versatile, playing in no less than six positions during his long career.
Ballin and Gidley may now be two of the NRL’s elder statesmen but as usual both will have a big say in the fortunes of their respective sides on Monday night.