The divide in the Newcastle dressing room has been simmering for the past few months with Knights coach Adam O’Brien telling the playing group after a recent loss: “I know what you blokes are saying about me. I’m going nowhere.”
The point blank message from O’Brien can be revealed as the Knights go into damage control in the wake of the coach’s loose carry press conference last Sunday.
O’Brien fronted the media again on Tuesday to try and walk things back off the cliff but by that stage the cracks in the Newcastle dressing room had been prized wide open.
The David Klemmer situation has only driven a further wedge into the struggling club which has only managed five wins out of 19 games this year.
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The Knights started this season full of optimism after back-to-back wins over the Sydney Roosters and Wests Tigers before going on a run of seven losses leading into Magic Round.
It’s been slim pickings since with Newcastle now having the worst defensive record in the NRL having leaked 522 points at an average of 27.47 points per game along with currently having the worst differential in the competition of minus 238 points.
There’s no question O’Brien’s penchant for a blow-up is wearing thin with elements of the Newcastle playing group.
The problem for O’Brien is in 2022 it’s so much easier to get rid of a head coach than it is to completely try and turn over a roster.
The old saying goes you’ve never really been a head coach until you’ve lost four games in a row and the heat is on – which is exactly where O’Brien finds himself now.
‘AT A TIPPING POINT’: Knights at a crossroads, O’Brien feels for running ‘soft ship’
The Knights are adamant O’Brien will remain as the head coach next season but the biggest immediate challenge the Newcastle coach faces is getting the playing group all back on the same page.
New Director of Football Peter Parr has arrived at Newcastle and could only be shaking his head at the bun fight he’s walked into.
O’Brien is signed with Newcastle until the end of 2024 which if the Knights stay the course would mean he’s had a five-year tenure at the club.
After the events of the past week it’s now become blatantly clear the Knights coach needs a fast start to next season to ensure his own job security.
Let’s call the Klemmer play from Newcastle for what it is – the Knights are clearly trying to free up some money to try and go in a different direction next season.
Klemmer is on $800,000-plus which would give Newcastle some serious money to go to the open market with.
Plenty of ex-players are happy to tell you middle forwards often protest against being dragged from the field.
Newcastle have clearly identified they no longer want the ex-NSW and Australian prop at the Knights and so have started the process of steering him towards another club.
ROOSTERS MOVE TO LOCK UP WALKER
The Sydney Roosters are set to launch a multi-million dollar play aimed at keeping young gun halfback Sam Walker at the Tricolours long-term.
Walker, 20, will be a free agent for rival clubs to approach as of November 1 but like all the good clubs the Roosters will try and make sure they strike a deal well beforehand.
The other rookie who has everyone talking at the Chooks is emerging superstar Joseph Suaalii. The Roosters clearly value his contribution to the team at the point where champion frontrower Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has been bringing him into leading the club’s team song over the past fortnight.
Jared has long been the Roosters leader in charge of leading the team song. Even after the Roosters were disappointed with their round 20 win over Manly, JWH still insisted on Suaalii riding shot gun with him leading the celebrations.
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DRAGONS CHASE ROOSTERS HOOKER
THE Gold Coast Titans aren’t the only club having a crack at signing Sydney Roosters hooker Sam Verrills.
The St George Illawarra Dragons are also making a play for the premiership-winning no.9.
Where it gets interesting is the Dragons have had a tough conversation with current hooker Andrew McCullough.
McCullough, 32, still has a year to run on his contract next season but the Red V are clearly exploring going in a different direction.
McCullough is one of the ex-Broncos clique of Dragons players who enjoys a close rapport with Red V coach Anthony Griffin.
The hooker, Dragons captain Ben Hunt and Josh Maguire all played in an under 20s grand finale with the Broncos in 2008 when Griffin was the coach.
FARAH GETS HANDS ON IN TIGERS FRONT OFFICE
The Wests Tigers putting the band back together with Tim Sheens, Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah is a smart play from the struggling club.
What’s equally as smart is Farah’s new contract stipulating that he’s also set to learn the ropes in terms of front office administration with the club.
The Tigers have long been laughed at by rival clubs about the way the club has been run.
Getting a figurehead like Farah who has bled for the club more hands-on in this department makes a lot of sense.
SOUTHS MOVE TO KEEP LATRELL, CODY AT REDFERN
We told you last week how South Sydney had a delicate $6 million balancing act on their hands around the re-signings of superstar fullback Latrell Mitchell and five-eighth star Cody Walker.
We were told there was a big chance the two key position players would wait until after November 1 to re-commit to South Sydney.
The Rabbitohs have swiftly moved to try and nip the scenario in the bud by meeting with the star duo earlier this week.
Both Latrell and Cody are off-contract at the end of next season but with talks progressing positively there’s every chance they can soon re-commit to the Bunnies.
It will be a huge coup for the red and green club and also for CEO Blake Solly.