Should the Newcastle Knights sack Nathan Brown?
Many seem to forgive Newcastle Knights head coach Nathan Brown for the clubs’ woes over the past two years of football. With an inexperienced squad and a football department deep in debt, Brown’s three wins in 18 months have flown under the radar.
The final nail in the coffin I believe is when Brown failed to guide his team to a much needed victory against a second last placed Wests Tigers side – at home – and with a missing James Tedesco.
Many said at the end of 2016 that the Knights couldn’t get any worse. Well, I think they have this season – despite having one more win this year.
In the 40 matches since Brown took over, he has won just three games to hold the worst win/loss record of any coach in the modern era with a measly eight percent.
As touched on before, Brown doesn’t have much to work with but this is no excuse. He still has talent in his side such as State of Origin and International representatives Trent Hodkinson, Jamie Buhrer, Dane Gagai, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Danny Levi, Sione Mata’utia and Anthony Tupou.
Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti, Mitchell Barnett and Nathan Ross also provide youth and enthusiasm to the squad. Unfortunately, after an impressive 2016 season, the Saifiti twins haven’t really built upon the form which saw them touted as future Origin prospects. This simply comes down to poor coaching from Nathan Brown.
Mitchell Barnett is also down on form compared to his breakthrough 2016 season. Young halves such as Brock Lamb, Jaelen Feeney and Jack Cogger have also failed to develop under the guidance of Nathan Brown.
Both Newcastle’s ISC and Holden Cup squads currently sit in the top eight of their respective competitions so the main squad does have the depth there to win more than just two games a season. Much more should be expected of Nathan Brown.
Who should take the reins in the Hunter Valley? I believe any half decent coach is already an improvement on the lacklustre Brown. But I’d say the best option would be Geoff Toovey. Toovey was unfairly sacked from Manly after their ninth placed finish in 2015.
Toovey had won 62 of 105 games coached at Manly and built upon what former mentor Des Hasler had put in place before his exit to Belmore. In his rookie year as head coach Toovey took Manly just one game short of the grand final.
In 2013 he got the club to a grand final but just fell short to a Sydney Roosters side featuring a plethora of talent. A year later Toovey led Manly to a top two finish before falling out of grand final contention in straight sets.
Toovey has a knack of getting his younger talent to perform and has the ability to install some quality structures and belief in this young Newcastle side.
Toovey is also a smart business man and can attract real talent to the Hunter. Nathan Brown’s signings for the 2017 season include a $700,000 per season pay packet to a 19-year-old with just eight first grade games to his name in Kalyn Ponga.
Brown’s other marquee signing for 2016 is an over the hill 30-year-old Aidan Guerra who has recently been dropped by the Queensland Maroons side whilst also spending time demoted to the Sydney Roosters bench over the past 18 months.
Guerra joins the club on a whopping $650,000 a season. Meanwhile, Brown has missed out on off-contract talent Cooper Cronk, Jack Bird, Matthew Scott, James Graham and spectacularly let his marquee player, Dane Gagai, leave the club to take up a long term contract with the South Sydney Rabbitohs – on less money than what he is forking out for Ponga and Guerra.
If Newcastle want to see any improvement from next season onwards, they need to move on from the failed Nathan Brown experiment.