With Cameron Smith withdrawing from the NRL All Stars game due to a shoulder injury, the man to replace him in the All Stars is the man Smith replaced in the Kangaroos: Danny Buderus.
Buderus and Smith had a running rivalry before Buderus’s sojourn to the English Super League, one which brought out the best in both of them and was particularly heated during Origin.
Buderus was always the man picked to wear the number nine for the green and gold until the end-of-season Kangaroo tour of 2006, when Buderus gave up his spot on the tour to instead get married.
Though Buderus says he has no regrets about the decision, Smith grabbed the incumbency with both hands and has yet to give it up.
Though it is an injury that will deny Smith the opportunity to play his third match for the All Stars, the possibility of it opening the representative door for the man Smith played such an instrumental part in closing it on would be fitting.
The question many would ask however, is if Buderus could keep up with the best players in the NRL – he will turn 34 two days after the game at Skilled Park and has spent the last two seasons playing in the English Super League with Leeds Rhinos.
But, having won the 2011 Super League title with the Rhinos and captained the Exiles to a win in the Super League’s first International Origin game, Buderus showed he still has what it takes to perform on the big occasions.
More importantly, he has the faith of his club coach, who also happens to be the All Stars coach and arguably the greatest coach in the history of rugby league – Wayne Bennett.
Best of all, Buderus is a hit with the fans. Despite being a passionate New South Welshman – having captained New South Wales in State of Origin more than any other player – he has always been of the Darren Lockyer model. Not in the skills or positional sense, rather the way in which he carried himself both on and off the field.
Despite Lockyer being pivotal in leading Queensland to six straight series wins over NSW, there aren’t too many people South of the Tweed who have anything but respect for him, because he was always a clean player on the field and a gentleman off it.
Though it would be presumptuous to pretend to know what Queenslanders are thinking, Buderus’s hard but fair style of play coupled with a career of headlines confined to the back rather than front pages means he is a player people are glad to have back in the game, whether they support his team/ state/ country or not.
When he retired from the NRL in 2008, he had achieved everything in the game.
Since then, the game has added one more accolade for a player to achieve – All Star.
Buderus has always been a Star. He deserves the final accolade.