Right place, right time sums up how Newcastle workhorse Matt Hilder scored a try in his 100th game for the club, and 200th in the NRL, that gave Newcastle an 18-4 lead early in the second half of their 18-16 victory over Melbourne at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
It also explains Hilder's recall to first grade three weeks ago to fill the bench utility role that became vacant when captain Kurt Gidley suffered a season-ending foot injury in Newcastle's 26-18 victory over the Broncos in Brisbane.
After playing in only two previous NRL games all year and seemingly destined to finish his sixth season at the Knights in the NSW Cup finals, Hilder has come off the bench to support Danny Buderus in Newcastle's past three victories over the Eels, Bulldogs and Storm.
Those games have taken the 31-year-old toiler's career tally to 100 for the Knights, and 200 in the NRL, and he marked that milestone with his first try of the season.
The back-to-back players' player of the year in 2010 and 2011, Hilder picked up the crumbs and dived over to score when Billy Slater spilt Jarrod Mullen's bomb in the 42nd minute.
''If you put the effort in on the kick chase, I suppose there's a chance to score a try,'' said Hilder, who has signed a one-year second-tier deal to remain in Newcastle next year. ''It's unbelievable. I didn't think I'd be here at this time of year, that's for sure. I just always try to do the best with what I've got … whether it's playing reserve grade (NSW Cup), or helping the boys out in the top grade.''
Coach Wayne Bennett would only consider replacing Hilder in the preliminary final against Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night if Craig Gower made a miraculous recovery from neck surgery and proved his fitness at training this week.
Apart from his four-pointer, Hilder made 17 tackles and ran four times for 21 metres in his 27 minutes against the Storm.
''I'm playing because of a few injuries - that's the way it goes sometimes,'' he said. ''You've just got to be ready and stick your hand up when the position opens up.
''I've done that, and I've done the job for the boys in the last few weeks, and that's all I've wanted to do. I'm not playing much time out there, so I'm just trying to go as hard as I can and do the right thing for the team.''