Incoming Knights coach Rick Stone has already begun planning with players for next season says back-rower Robbie Rochow.
Incoming Newcastle coach Rick Stone has already begun planning with Knights players for next season as he seeks to take advantage of the NRL’s club’s late-season form surge.
Stone will begin his second stint as Knights coach next season upon Wayne Bennett’s return to Brisbane.
He had mixed success in his first stint with the Knights from mid 2009 through the 2011 season.
Stone achieved a winning percentage of just 46 per cent but took the club to the finals in 2009 after Brian Smith’s mid-season resignation and again in 2011 before Bennett moved to the Hunter in 2012, under whom Stone has worked as an assistant.
Ahead of Saturday’s round 24 clash with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium, Knights back-rower Robbie Rochow said Stone had been in contact with several Knights players following the announcement two weeks ago he will again be head coach in 2014.
“Wayne is still the coach and Wayne and Rick are both grown men, they know the situation,” Rochow told AAP after being inducted into the NRL academic team of the year this week.
“So Rick has taken a bit more of a role with some individuals that he knows are going to be around next year and that is something that has come since he was announced as head coach.
“Wayne is still head coach, we still listen to him, we still want to play for him, that’s how it will be until round 26 and I am going to cherish every minute I have under Wayne while he is still here.
“Rick has as good relationship with most of the players here, he has been around a long time, he contributes and you can just tell he is keen to really take that head role and help us out for next year.”
Despite being out of finals contention Newcastle have secured morale boosting wins over premiers the Sydney Roosters, Melbourne and the Warriors in recent weeks.
“There is not much pressure on us anymore, we are just enjoying our football, we have got the basics right, we are doing the little things well,” Rochow said.
“It is frustrating and disappointing to know that is all it has taken for us to really start playing well because earlier in the year we could have been doing that, playing well and be a chance of playing in the playoffs.
“It is a big thing to finish the year well just to bring some hope into next year.
“We don’t want to start next year knowing we had a dreadful finish and a dreadful season.
“We want to have something positive taken out of this year because we do have a very similar playing group next year and it is a matter of working together and making sure we are right for next year.”