Struggling Knights desperate for leaders
NEWCASTLE have confirmed the NRL's worst-kept secret by formally announcing rookie coach Adam O'Brien as Nathan Brown's replacement.
The Knights have appointed O'Brien for the next three seasons.
But in a concerning twist for the club's struggling administration, the first-time NRL head coach is taking on the job without the backing of legendary administrator John Quayle or Knights legend Danny Buderus, who have finished up their roles on the club's football advisory board.
Quayle and Buderus have decided to wind up their commitments after being sensationally left out of the loop during the bungled coaching fiasco that culminated in Brown's shock exit.
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David Furner is also tipped to be offered the senior assistant coaching position after meeting with Knights' management on Monday. Curiously, Furner is understood to be the pick of management and not the new coach, which goes against the normal process of a head coach bringing with him his own staff.
At least Furner has a strong background in the game which will be a huge asset for O'Brien's given the lack of experience that remains elsewhere at the club.
Quayle is understood to be content that his job on the football advisory board is done as he felt it was time that the Wests Group took full responsibility for their decisions.
But Buderus is said to be confused and even a little bit embarrassed that he was not consulted throughout the process.
What makes it even more worrying is that under-fire chief executive Philip Gardner has now publicly welcomed club legend Andrew Johns to take on any position that he wants. This comes after Johns accused the club's management of sabotaging the team's finals hopes.
The loss of Quayle and Buderus has left the Knights with a serious lack of football IQ that was exposed by the diabolic handling of Brown's situation.
There is also growing pressure coming from outside the club to bring in a senior football administrator and someone to teach the Knights' management some media training.
Gardner has won few friends in recent weeks for the way he has seemingly attempted to sell himself as a shrewd operator even though most on the outside have viewed it as a public relations disaster.
Brown was one of the most popular coaches in Newcastle's history while the club's administration has also found a way to upset rugby league's most passionate fan base, with the crowd of 8274 on Saturday the smallest Newcastle home crowd 22 years.
There is also growing concern about recruitment boss Troy Pezet's close relationship with O'Brien's agent Isaac Moses with genuine fears that it leaves the club in a vulnerable position given Moses also looks after several Knights players including David Klemmer, Kurt Mann, Hymel Hunt and Tautau Moga.
There is also a concern that Mitchell Pearce is apparently questioning his role as team captain and he might stand down at the end of the season.
That would present another huge challenge for O'Brien given Pearce was brought to the club to be the leader and there is no obvious standout replacement in the current playing group.