Newcastle boss Matt Gidley admits players could follow Wayne Bennett out of the Knights but has expressed faith in a strong crop of juniors coming through.
Newcastle chief executive Matt Gidley admits there’s a risk star players could follow departing coach Wayne Bennett out of the NRL club, but he has faith a promising band of local juniors will form the Knights’ future.
Fullback Darius Boyd has a clause in his contract that says he can leave the Knights should Bennett no longer be in charge, with reports suggesting the Queensland and Test representative is next to no chance of remaining in Newcastle next season.
Alongside Boyd, representative forwards Jeremy Smith and Beau Scott also won a premiership under Bennett at St George Illawarra in 2010, and all share a close bond with the super coach.
Aside from losing the best coach in the business, Bennett’s exit means the Knights have also lost their No.1 recruiting tool, which doesn’t bode well for a club already on its knees following the collapse of Nathan Tinkler’s ownership.
Embattled boss Gidley says he isn’t immediately concerned about the prospect of players following Bennett, but concedes it’s an issue he must address in coming weeks.
“I’m not concerned at this stage but I guess it’s a risk,” Gidley said on Sky Sports Radio.
“Wayne’s got a great relationship with a lot of those players (Boyd, Smith, Scott).
“I think we’ll certainly establish that over the coming weeks.
“We’ve still got a little bit of work to do (on roster).
“The vast majority of our squad’s settled for 2015 but we still have a little bit of work to do.
“That’ll take shape over the next month or two.”
Newcastle are coming first in the National Youth Competition and Gidley says the young players coming through are the priority – even if that means some short-term pain.
“Our greatest competitive advantage has always been our local juniors,” he said.
“Our most successful years on the field have seen the team predominantly made up of locally developed boys and we will always have a bias towards our local kids.
“Moving them up to NRL level will take some time but we’re comfortable with that position.”
To help that process along, Gidley has indicated the Knights are looking for a coach familiar with the Newcastle area.
He confirmed former Knights coach and current assistant Rick Stone is a leading candidate to take over the reins from Bennett, as is highly rated Penrith reserve grade mentor Garth Brennan – who formerly coached and played in Newcastle.
With the NRL temporarily in charge of the club, an interim board featuring two NRL representatives, Gidley and Chairman Paul Harragon will decide on a new coach.
“Ideally, we want to make an appointment as quickly as possible but it’s important we go through the process and find the right candidate,” said Gidley.