Nathan Brown’s tenure at St George Illawarra ended when Wayne Bennett committed to the joint venture. But now, the former Dragons hooker will be asked to do one thing the super coach could not – bring a NRL premiership to the Hunter.
In one of the more low-profile coaching announcements in recent years, Brown was confirmed as the new Newcastle coach for next year on Thursday morning when club chairman Brian McGuigan confirmed the appointment on Newcastle’s radio 2HD.
Brown’s first crack at NRL coaching ended in 2008 when Bennett agreed to join the Dragons. Bennett eventually brought premiership success to the joint venture. On the other side of the world, Brown was continuing his own coaching career.
And the success the former Dragons hooker enjoyed in the UK, taking Huddersfield to a Challenge Cup final and winning the Super League title with St Helens, convinced Knights powerbrokers he was the man to revive footballing fortunes in the Hunter.
The Knights’ football sub-committee, chaired by John Quayle and counting Matt Gidley, Mark Fitzgibbon and Philip Gardner as members, has made a recommendation that Brown “be appointed as head coach”.
That seems a mere formality given McGuigan’s comments.
“It is going to be Nathan Brown, we have to complete the contract but the board has spoken to many people and he has come out as the favourite because of his experience and having won premierships in the United Kingdom and the fact that he is so keen to do the job,” McGuigan said.
“We find him a very worthwhile candidate; his family is keen to come to Newcastle. He is at the time in his career where we have got a great deal of faith in him.”
The length of Brown’s contract is yet to be confirmed by the Knights.
However, Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said it was Brown’s success in the UK that convinced them he was the man for the job.
“I think they (the football sub-committee) really respected that when Wayne (Bennett) came into St George, he (Brown) decided to back himself as a coach in his own right and go to the UK.
“He went to a club that was under-resourced, there wasn’t a lot of talent at Huddersfield and he was able to turn them into a top-four team. They have remained a top-four team after he has left and he has been able to bring on the coaches under him as well.
“Then he went across to St Helens which is a club similar to Newcastle. They were a club that hadn’t won a grand final on about six occasions in a row and he was able to win the Super League last year with a relatively inexperienced squad.”
Anthony Griffin and Michael Maguire were among others linked to the top job at Newcastle. Maguire didn’t deny there had been contact between his representatives and Knights powerbrokers on Wednesday, but declared his allegiance to Redfern saying: “This is the club that I really love and enjoy and that is where it is at – I’m staying”.
Gidley denied the Knights attempted to get Maguire to break his contract with the Rabbitohs. Maguire has signed with Souths for two more seasons.
Brown will take over from Rick Stone who was sacked earlier this year. Danny Buderus has coached the club in interim capacity since.
An assistant coach with the NSW State of Origin side, Brown coached the Dragons from 2003-08. He then moved to the Super League and coached Huddersfield Giants for four seasons before heading up St Helens and leading them to a grand final win last year.
RECORD OF NEW NEWCASTLE COACH NATHAN BROWN:
* ST HELENS: Seasons 2013-14: 29 games, won 16, lost 12, drawn 1, 55 per cent win/loss. Achievements: Won Super League title in 2014
* HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS: Seasons 2009-12: 92 games, won 53, lost 38, drawn one, 58 per cent win/loss. Achievements: Challenge Cup final in 2009
* ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA: Seasons: 2003-08: 142 games, won 75, lost 67, 53 per cent win/loss record. Achievements: 2nd over regular season in 2005; preliminary finalists
* St George/St George Illawarra
Seasons: 1993-2000, 172 games