nib Newcastle Knights CEO Philip Gardner has addressed the media following the announcement of Nathan Brown's immediate departure from the Club.
Here's what he had to say:
As you are all now aware, Nathan Brown came to see me last Monday, at which he resigned as Head Coach of the Newcastle Knights. Before he did that, he informed his coaching staff and players that he was resigning. At that meeting we discussed how to go forward, how the club would be best served, Nathan being the gentleman and absolute class act that he is, wanted to continue as Head Coach of the Knights.
He thought and I thought that the players and the team would galvanise, and we’d have a fantastic run into the finals series.
Unfortunately, that’s not happened and what we’ve seen on the weekend was a poor result by anyone’s estimation. Since then we’ve been discussing what is the best way for the club to go forward, what’s the best opportunity for the team and the town, to make sure that we can perform at our absolute best.
After those discussions with Nathan, Nathan told me yesterday that he thought it was in the club’s best interests if he finishes up now, and that Kristian Woolfe leads the club going forward. I told him I’d have to talk to my board about that, I consulted with them last night.
I came in this morning, I spoke to the playing group and we went through that process, and Nathan was of the same opinion. I am now of that same opinion, that the club is better served in the short term with Kristian Woolfe taking on the role as Head Coach for the next couple of weeks.
Nathan has just been exceptional in everything that he’s done for this club and the way in which he’s conducted himself. He is just putting the town, the players and the club first, and not himself. I think the way he’s handled himself is the benchmark for the way in which Coach’s should handle themselves.
Had the Knights won the game (vs Tigers) would Nathan still be coach?
That’s a very good question, and I can’t answer that because we didn’t win the game. Certainly, if we’d seen a better performance, that may have been the case.
How close are you to finalising a permanent replacement?
The role of new head coach is the responsibility of myself to get a shortlist and the board to make that decision, certainly the board is working their way through it. We will go as fast as we possibly can because we know the players and the town want to know who the next head coach is going to be. It’s a very important announcement for us, we’ve got to get a person of the character that fits into the town, we’ve been very lucky to have had Nathan Brown. So, we’ll take as much time as we need, but when the right person comes, we’ll announce it to the town as quickly as possible.
There’s been a suggestion that Adam O’Brien is virtually a done deal, is it that far advanced?
We’re talking to everyone, since last Monday I’ve spoken to every player agent, every coaching agent in the town, to work out who the right person is. We’ve got a shortlist, we’ve done a desktop of all the coaches, all the assistant coaches. We’ve worked through all their strengths and weaknesses, and we’re going to shortlist coaches we will talk to. Certainly, Adam O’Brien is on that list. I think he’s an exceptional coach, but there are other coaches we will talk to as well, and like everything in life you’ve got to negotiate an acceptable outcome for the coach and for the Club.
The Club’s been criticised for the way you’ve handled this whole thing, could the management of the Club handled this better?
I think in anything you do in life you can handle it better. Certainly, we’ll look back on this and I’ll look back on this to see if we could’ve done it better. I think it was a fairly unique set of circumstances for us. But I think the answer to that is yes, I believe that everything we do could be done better. It’s just lucky we’ve had a person like Nathan Brown, who is just such a quality individual. He’s helped all the way through the recruitment process, he’s been part of the recruitment process looking at the strengths and weakness of where we need to go. He understands the players and he’s been a great help to me, and I’ve just got absolute admiration for Nathan and how he’s behaved in this process.
Did Nathan or any of the players, since Saturday night, give any reason or explanation as to why Saturday played out the way it did?
If any of us knew that, that would be the new Head Coach. I don’t think anybody saw it coming, we certainly didn’t see it coming. That’s certainly been a catalyst to look at how we make sure that the team performs to their upmost capacity. Nathan’s done some soul searching around that, I’ve done some soul searching around that. We’ve consulted widely in that and this is the outcome that we’ve come to.
Has Nathan lost the confidence of the playing group?
There’s not a player in this club that doesn’t like Nathan. Nathan is one of the nicest human beings that I’ve ever met. He certainly has my friendship as well as my respect as a person. Sometimes in a Coach’s journey the time comes, and Nathan’s been here four years. I certainly think the players need a new voice, a new direction and that’s where the Club has got to and Nathan understands that. Nathan has said that himself, that it comes time. We as a town and a Club are desperate for success and we need to make sure that we’ve got that right. Certainly, this process we could’ve handled it better, but we’re going to do everything we can to get success for the playing group and for the town.
What sort of reaction are you expecting from the playing group? You didn’t get it last week, what would you expect this week?
Well I hope we get a hell of a lot better reaction this week, and I think we will. It’s certainly the case. We’re galvanised, it’s Old Boys Day, it’s a very important day for us in the calendar, and lets’ hope we can win this game and win at Penrith.
You mentioned a moment ago that you’re looking at all the candidates and interviewing possible candidates, there’s a lot of candidates who’ve ruled themselves out, is it possible you’ll have a decision in 24-48 hours?
That’s a decision for the board to make, so I can’t actually give you an answer to that. We would like to make a decision as quickly as possible, given where some of the candidates sit, and we want to be respectful of where they sit at other clubs, and where those clubs sit within the actual premiership. None of that’s ideal, so we’ll move as quickly as we can. This is such an important decision for us and for the town, so we want to make sure we get it right.
Do you have a message to the Knights fans who may be feeling pretty disheartened after this week?
I think if we go back two years ago, where we started, we came in because we wanted to make sure the Knights weren’t lost to the town or the community. We promised a couple of things to our fans and the community then. We’d do everything we could to bring success back to the town, after three wooden spoons. I think in a lot of respects we’ve done that, and Nathan’s been a big part in delivering that. We want more success and we want to be better going forward. We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure this club is better, and we have more success for the fans. We’re going to work tirelessly to make that happen.