Knights coach Adam O’Brien has been called out for comments regarding the team’s fitness and the assertion that Luke Brooks would have dramatically changed the outcome of their season.
O’Brien used a break for Covid as an excuse for the team not being fit enough and believes the club’s failure to lure Brooks from the Tigers had a huge effect on their dismal 2022 campaign.
“Adam O’Brien saying that Luke Brooks definitely would have changed their team, I agree with him,” Braith Anasta said on NRL 360.
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However, Phil Rothfield believes the decision to let Mitchell Pearce leave with a year remaining on his contract was an even bigger mistake.
“Hold on, why did he let Mitchell Pearce go?” Rothfield said.
“Yeah I don’t know, but was that a bit of both ways?” Anasta asked.
“Mitchell Pearce wanting to move on and the Knights going in a change of direction?”
“Where would you rank Mitchell Pearce over the last couple of years as a half?” Rothfield continued.
“Behind Cleary. Behind Hughes. Behind Cherry-Evans, but that would just about be it.
“I think it was a mistake that Pearce was in a position where he wanted to go.”
Paul Kent revealed Pearce left because he was not feeling wanted by the Knights and he also took issue with O’Brien’s comments on the team’s fitness.
“He felt unloved at Newcastle, which is why he left because at one point he didn’t want to go to France, but he wasn’t feeling the love,” Kent said.
“I like Adam O’Brien, but that was a weird interview.
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“Missing one week of training before Christmas because of Covid doesn’t mean you are unfit for the whole season. You have got bigger problems there.
“They were unfit the Knights. There is too much player power at the Knights. There is not enough faith in the coach at the Knights.
“As far as Luke Brooks being the solution for them. They raved and raved about Clifford and Clune at the start of the season and how well they were going.
“They actually did start off pretty well. There was a period where they won their first two games and they were the buy of the year at the start of the year.”
Rothfield believes the fact Penrith’s premiership winning high performance man Hayden Knowles couldn’t improve the side’s fitness is evidence of deeper issues at the club.
“You are talking about their fitness, when Penrith won the competition Hayden Knowles was their head of high performance,” Rothfield said.
“They signed him to come to Newcastle to turn them into as fit as Penrith are and that didn’t work out. He had the blue with Klemmer and he left before the end of the season. It is messy that club.”
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Kent believes it is farcical to suggest a break due to Covid is the reason Knowles couldn’t improve the side’s fitness.
“Hayden Knowles knows what it takes to get a team to that level,” Kent said.
“Now why Hayden Knowles was not able to implement that, I don’t buy that one week of missed training before Christmas because of Covid so fathers could have Christmas with their kids was the reason.”
Brent Read revealed the Knights still haven’t given up hope of luring Brooks to Newcastle despite the fact he is signed on big money to the Tigers for 2023 and reportedly in discussions over an extension.
“It is not dead and buried,” Read said.
“He is definitely still on the radar.”
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“I think they are also having a sneaky look at Brodie Croft,” Kent added.
“I think they have been offered Brodie Croft and he wants to come back, but I don’t know if they want him,” Read corrected.
Anasta believes the Knights need to pick their halves and back them.
“Clifford and Clune are still there too,” Anasta said.
“They have already got four halfbacks in their top 30,” Kent said.
“Commit to one or two,” Anasta said.
“They are dipping their toes in the water with five halves.”
Read believes the Knights need to make a call on Brooks one way or the other and move on, so they don’t risk the saga dragging on into another season.
“There has been a bit of talk about Clifford or Clune potentially moving on,” Read said.
“What they need to do is sort the Brooks situation out early and just draw a line in the sand with him. If it is not done by this date, we are moving on without him because last year it just lingered too long and they thought they were a chance of getting him and it stuffed their whole season up.
“They just need to get it done as soon as they can. Find out one way or the other and exhaust every option to get him. If they can’t get him then move on.”
Anasta warned the Knights don’t have the right halves on their books to turn things around.
“If I am being honest and this is no disrespect to those players, but the four or five halves they have got there now are not the solution at all,” Anasta said.
However, Rothfield believes the side’s lack of a halfback is still not their biggest issue.
“You know where they need to start is their culture because Kalyn Ponga and Kurt Mann were caught in a bathroom on the drink while both out injured and escaped with no penalty whatsoever,” Rothfield said.
“Their culture is a bigger problem than their halfback.”