Hilder prepared to cut deal to stay put

UNASSUMING Knights utility forward Matt Hilder is willing to accept a second-tier deal to stay at the club next year.

Off contract at the end of the season, the 31-year-old workhorse is resigned to taking a significant pay cut and slipping out of the club’s top 25 contracted players, but he wants to stay in Newcastle to raise his young family and prepare for a post-football career as a plumber.

Hilder has played just two NRL games this season and 10 last year, mostly due to a series of concussions from repeated head knocks that left him with fluid on the brain, blurred vision, headaches and amnesia.

Even when he has been fit, coach Wayne Bennett has preferred others at hooker or in the back row.

But Hilder said Bennett wants him to keep playing and be a mentor to the club’s younger players, and he was about to enter formal negotiations with Knights recruitment and development manager Peter Mulholland.

‘‘We’re just talking now. Me and Wayne have had a chat about it and I’ve just got to talk to Pete now.

‘‘But I’m definitely going to hang around, I think, on a second-tier deal,’’ Hilder told the Newcastle Herald yesterday.

‘‘I’ll keep playing NSW Cup but I’m still hopeful of playing first grade.’’

Hilder, who has played 97 NRL games for Newcastle since arriving from the Titans at the end of 2007, is completing his plumbing apprenticeship through a program run by the Knights and Hunter TAFE.

He juggles studying and working for A&P Plumbing around his training schedule, and whatever spare time he has he spends with wife Natalie and their children Indy, Eden and Sonny.

‘‘I’m happy to stay here, and this gives me the opportunity to finish my trade off,’’ he said.

‘‘My family’s happy here, my wife’s got a good job, and we’re pretty settled.

‘‘So we’re going to hang here for another year and see what happens after that.

‘‘I haven’t sat down and spoken to Pete about it yet, but from what I’ve spoken to Wayne about, he’s happy to keep me here on a second-tier deal which will help me out with a bit of money, and I’ll be working more with the boys at A&P.’’

The Knights Players’ Player of the Year in 2010 and 2011, and 2010 Player of the Year, Hilder is sidelined with a torn hamstring but hopes to return in Newcastle’s NSW Cup game against Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on June 29.

‘‘Hopefully I can show a bit of leadership down there,’’ he said.

‘‘My hamstring’s getting better slowly and I should be right for the next game.

It’s just one of those things that takes time.’’

Matt Hilder