Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien has come under fire for his comments in a press conference after the Knights slumped to yet another loss.
The Bulldogs defeated O’Brien’s troops 24-10 on Sunday — their 14th loss of the season, which leaves them in 14th place.
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The year started on a bright note for Newcastle, who won their first two games, but it’s been downhill ever since and O’Brien knows the club faces a long road to get back anywhere near the top.
The 44-year-old was an assistant coach at Melbourne and the Roosters when they made it to grand finals, but he’s not enjoying the same success with the Knights.
“It is a hard one for me as well,” O’Brien said in his post-match press conference. “Previous to getting this job here I was involved in four grand finals.
“I know how those teams prepared. I know the systems they used defensively.
“You don’t unlearn that knowledge. Applying it and getting it ingrained is going to take some time clearly.
“Week to week we can talk about one area of that defense and we can fix it in seven days, but then we will let another area of our defense down.
“It is going to take a bit of time and I know some people don’t want to wait that long, but it is.
“I have seen how the teams prepare in those four grand finals. How the players performed. How the club prepares. How it performs.
“I have seen all that stuff and I haven’t unlearnt that, but it is going to take some time.”
Referencing his own exploits as an assistant coach didn’t go down well with everyone, as some footy pundits called O’Brien out.
The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield addressed the presser on radio on Monday morning.
Rothfield suggested if results don’t improve by a third of the way through next season, O’Brien’s job could be in jeopardy.
“He said after the game, ‘Well I’ve been to four grand finals’. That was as an assistant coach. He’s basically saying ‘I’m not the problem’,” Rothfield told the Big Sports Breakfast.
“When you’re a team, I think it’s one in, all in. You don’t start playing blame games like that. I just thought it was a silly thing to say and they’ve been terrible in recent weeks.
“Adam O’Brien was talking himself up yesterday … just because you’ve come out of a good system, doesn’t guarantee you’ve got what it takes and some guys are good assistant coaches and some guys are good head coaches.
“I hope they do give him a bit more time, the rest of this season and a rebuild alongside (incoming director of football) Peter Parr but geez, to let guys like (Zac) Hosking and (Jacob) Kiraz go, who weren’ t even on $100,000, they’ve really got to sort the pathways out.”
Rugby league reporter Tony Adams tweeted of O’Brien: “Now he’s throwing his own players under the bus – ‘It’s not me, it’s them’.”
Newcastle is likely to be without superstar fullback Kalyn Ponga for the rest of the season because of his latest concussion, and the heat is on the rest of the Knights players to show some fight as the 2022 season winds down, even though they are out of final contention.
“We have got the right people in the job. We just need to have a plan and we need to coach the hell out of it and hopefully we look back at this season as a year that helped us grow,” O’Brien said.
“Had we scraped into the finals this year it would have stuck a bandaid on a problem that is still there.
“We need to stick tight and work our way out of it.”