204 matches [1993-2004]
1572 points [101 tries, 581 goals, 6 field goals]
Girdler was an Illawarra junior who had debuted at the Steelers in 1991 before arriving at the Panthers in 1993 in the search of holding down a more permanent first grade backline position.
A series of injuries in his first two seasons had him seriously considering retirement and a return to Wollongong, however was convinced to stay by then coach Royce Simmons.
He gradually established himself as a classy centre who was also a sharpshooter with the boot – he would become the first choice goalkicker for the next decade and was the club’s top point scorer every season from 1995 to 2002. Girdler also had a nose for the try line, being the club’s top try scorer in 1999 and 2000. He had an uncanny knack to be in the right place at the right time, and at one time was crowned the “intercept king”.
Penrith’s Super League season ended up being Girdler’s breakout year, making his state and Australian debuts. He was also the competition’s top point scorer for that season with 197 points (breaking the then club record for most points in a season held by Greg Alexander – a record he would surpass again in 1999).
Upon the reunification of the two competitions, he was initially overlooked for further representative honours, but made his Test debut in 1999, as well as being selected for New South Wales in the State of Origin series. Late in the season, he set a point scoring record for most points in a match, scoring 28 from 3 tries and 8 goals in Penrith’s 52-10 demolition of Manly.
By 2000, Girdler had established himself as one of the competition’s premier centres. That season, he set more point scoring records – on the representative scene, he scored the most points for New South Wales in a match (32) and in a State of Origin series (52), and most points in a Test match (46), set during the World Cup. On the club scene, he overtook Greg Alexander’s mark of 1100 points, and becoming the club’s top point scorer.
At Penrith, Girdler was selected at five-eighth on occasion, initially as a stop gap but played in this position for most of the 2002 season. In the last round of the season against the Northern Eagles, he equalled the point scoring record he had set in 1999, once again scoring 28 points, this time from 2 tries and 10 goals. Upon the signing of Dally M Medal winner Preston Campbell, he would shift back to the centres for 2003.
Suffering a career threatening sternum injury in the opening round, he returned midway through the season, and by seasons end had a premiership ring, playing at centre in the grand final and converting the first two of the tries (he was off the field with a foot injury when Luke Rooney scored the match winning try late in the match). Girdler was selected on the Kangaroo Tour, marking a return from a two-year absence, however, he was not able to add to his Test appearances after being injured in a warm up match against Wales.
Early in the 2004 season, Girdler announced that he would retire at season’s end, citing an illness related to the sternum injury from the previous season. A hamstring injury suffered later in the season limited his appearances for the remainder of the season – he injured the hamstring whilst crossing over for his 101st try, which equalled Greg Alexander’s record for most Penrith tries). However, he was able to still register 200 first grade appearances for the Panthers. Girdler’s last match was in the preliminary final loss to the Bulldogs. He retired as the club’s top point scorer with 1571 points, as well as
Post retirement, Girdler has ventured into business as well as having a role in the media as a commentator. Furthermore, he was named as centre in the Team of Legends in 2006 to commemorate the club’s 40th anniversary.