KNIGHTS captain Kurt Gidley does not want to share the No.7 jersey with anyone this season.
The 30-year-old former NSW and Australian skipper made a successful return from reconstructive shoulder surgery in Newcastle's 18-6 victory over South Sydney at Coffs Harbour last Saturday night, playing the first half then handing the reins to deputy Tyrone Roberts.
Gidley looked on from the sidelines as Roberts scored two tries in a sharp display to steer the Knights home against last year's semi-finalists.
Coach Wayne Bennett was so impressed he said 21-year-old Roberts had secured a place in his squad for Newcastle's NRL season-opener against Wests Tigers at Hunter Stadium on March 11.
Roberts played 18 NRL games last year, including the last 16 straight after a dislocated left shoulder ended Gidley's season on April 30.
Though he is still mulling over a final blueprint, Bennett is considering bringing Roberts off the bench to partner five-eighth Jarrod Mullen during games. In doing so he would push Gidley into dummy-half to relieve Matt Hilder, initially, and eventually Danny Buderus when the former NSW and Australian skipper returns from back surgery.
As pleased as he has been to see Roberts improve and emerge as an NRL playmaker in his own right, Gidley said he was focused on starting and finishing every game at halfback.
''I haven't spoken about that role yet, and Wayne will speak to me if things change, but at the moment I'm playing halfback and I'm comfortable playing there,'' Gidley said.
''I didn't get a decent crack at it last year when I was handed the No.7 jersey so I'm looking forward to playing there for the whole year, training at halfback and working on different parts of my game and different skills that I need to work on at halfback, and going from there.
''I certainly didn't get the time I wanted there last year, and it's been good getting a whole pre-season of training there at halfback and getting a decent crack at it, so I'm looking forward to playing for a good chunk of the year this time and knowing that I'm playing halfback.''
Three of Gidley's five games last season were at five-eighth, before Bennett settled on Mullen at No.6, and the two he played at halfback were victories over the Bulldogs and Panthers. He wants to form a long-term partnership with Mullen.
''It would be nice for us to strike up a decent combination, not just over this year but over the next few years - until I'm finished, really,'' Gidley said.