The writing was on the wall for Nathan Brown.
The writing was on the wall for Nathan Brown.

Kent: The players behind Brown’s Knightfall

In any mutual parting of the ways there is always one party that believes it to be more mutual than the other.

It's not you, it's me …

Just three weeks ago Newcastle coach Nathan Brown walked onto the training field at Newcastle and had a quick word with Jesse Ramien.

"I hear your dad is shopping you around?" he said to Ramien.

"I don't take that personally, and don't take this personally, but go and pack your bags and go and play somewhere else where you're happy with the money you're on."

On Monday it was Brown's turn.

 

The writing was on the wall for Nathan Brown. Photo: AAP Image/Darren Pateman
The writing was on the wall for Nathan Brown. Photo: AAP Image/Darren Pateman

 

Knights management believed Brown had improved them as much as he could. Or was ever going to, which is different but more fatal.

The Knights have been quietly looking for a coach for a small time now.

Brown got a sense of it last week when he met Knights boss Phil Gardner shortly after he returned from overseas.

Last Thursday Brown's manager George Mimis was told the Knights were looking for a new coach.

Brown heard on Friday.

He failed to let that discourage him and on Saturday afternoon the Knights were giving North Queensland a hiding and Brown appeared completely unaffected.

 

It appears the players weren’t satisfied with the club’s progress.
It appears the players weren’t satisfied with the club’s progress.

 

By Monday, though, Brown had had time to digest the mood and on Monday night he spoke to Gardner again and told him that, without his full support, he would walk away at the end of the season.

It was confirmation of the problems underneath at Newcastle.

The Knights were having an unusual season.

After winning their opening game they lost their next five, then won their next five. They swapped a few wins and losses then lost their next their next six.

Something more than form seemed to be affecting the team.

 

Brown should have been more decisive over Jesse Ramien. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Brown should have been more decisive over Jesse Ramien. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

 

Then Brown was on NRL360 last week explaining the unusual streaks, saying given his time again there would have been a couple of coaching decisions he would have changed.

It was an unusual admission.

The last thing a coach should admit is uncertainty. It makes players nervous.

One decision he wanted to revisit was to play his Origin stars after Origin. A rest, he admitted, might have been better for the team.

The other he did not want to disclose but it was almost certainly the decision not to sack Ramien earlier.

Perhaps it would have been a show of faith to his team, which by now appears to have been wavering on him.

 

Craig Fitzgibbon would give the Knights new direction. Photo: Gregg Porteous
Craig Fitzgibbon would give the Knights new direction. Photo: Gregg Porteous

 

Which fast forwarded Monday's decision.

As usual, how culpable the playing group remains in Brown's mutual departure will come out over time.

It was significant.

With each hour news emerged that many of the senior players felt their improvement under Brown, to be polite, had peaked.

It also began to emerge there was a push for Roosters assistant Craig Fitzgibbon. As unlikely as this appears, it was not without precedent.

There was a similar coup at the Roosters in 2012 when Brian Smith was sacked with a season to go and Trent Robinson was appointed.

Robinson, then coaching in France, was such an outsider he was not even considered a contender in early markets to be the Roosters new coach but there was a strong push from the playing group for Robinson.

A similar internal push is now being made for Fitzgibbon, considered one of the bright new lights in coaching.

It might not be a coincidence that the Knights field an influential contingent of former Roosters players; captain Mitch Pearce, Connor Watson, Aidan Guerra and Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

With Newcastle teetering on the edge of the top eight it appears the Knights had seen enough, and probably heard enough, and were not prepared to gamble three possible season-saving wins that would make it harder to get rid of Brown next season.

The Roosters are confident Fitzgibbon, who recently agreed to a three-year extension as Robinson's assistant, will remain but the Knights' back-up plan appears to be the Roosters other assistant, Adam O'Brien.

So when the decision was made, gone with three rounds left and the Knights two points out of the eight.

Just as the Knights appear to be climbing over the hump, Brown was let go.

By mutual agreement.

 

Live stream the 2019 NRL Telstra Premiership on KAYO SPORTS. Every game of every round live & anytime on your TV or favourite device. Get your 14 day free trial >