The last time someone named Nathan took control of NRL club Newcastle, it didn’t end well.
But unlike a certain besieged former billionaire, new coach Knights Nathan Brown hopes his quest to rejuvenate Newcastle makes both dollars and sense in 2016.
The Knights have lost almost 1200 NRL games’ worth of experience, including their inspirational captain Kurt Gidley, from last season when they finished with the wooden spoon.
The good news for Brown is that the only way is up.
And Brown is no stranger to a successful club reboot.
NSW halfback Trent Hodkinson is new arrival Knights fans have been most excited about.
But those who dig a little deeper will no doubt get more enthusiastic about Brown’s presence.
Brown attempted a similar regeneration at English club St Helens, with stunning results.
The former St George Illawarra rake and coach adopted a youth development approach when he took over the Saints’ reins at the end of 2012.
By 2014, Brown had won the first premiership of his career, as a player or coach.
Not that Brown is making any bold forecasts at a club that even master coach Wayne Bennett couldn’t rejuvenate. And he knows he is starting from a long way back.
“There are no predictions about what you can and cannot do in two or three years,” Brown said.
“Newcastle has had a pretty bad 10 or 12 years, so there is obviously things that need fixing and over a period of time.
“We have got a reasonable grasp of where the club is at the minute and some changes that need to be made.”
A priority will be Newcastle’s defence – or lack thereof.
The Knights conceded 612 points in 2015 – that’s almost 26 a game – the second worst in the competition.
“I’d say we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Brown said. “But we’re happy the young kids are developing.”
Brown had no choice but to turn to youth development after an off-season exodus.
Gone are Gidley, Chris Houston, Clint Newton, Beau Scott and David Fa’alogo – players with almost 1000 NRL games between them alone.
In all 12 left before youngster Joseph Tapine was this week released to join Canberra.
And barnstorming backrower Tariq Sims won’t be available until round six due to a shoulder charge offence.
Hooker Danny Levi looks set to shine brightest from their emerging stars along with speedster Jaelen Feeney who may push the fiery Jake Mamo for the No.1 jersey.
Young guns are great but Newcastle’s year may come down to whether Hodkinson fires as he sets out to provide plenty of direction around the park.
Back after a wrist injury cut short his 2015 for the Bulldogs, Hodkinson creates a dream halves pairing with Jarrod Mullen.
“There’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears, so I’m looking forward to getting out there,” Hodkinson said.
Premierships: Two – 1997, 2001
Finishes over the past three seasons: 2013 – preliminary final, 2014 – 12th, 2015 – wooden spoon
Coach: Nathan Brown
Gains: Trent Hodkinson (Bulldogs), Mickey Paea (Hull FC), Will Pearsall (Manly), David Bhana (Warriors), Pauli Pauli (Parramatta)
Losses: Kurt Gidley (Warrington), Beau Scott (Parramatta), Clint Newton (retirement), David Fa’alogo (retirement), Carlos Tuimavave (Hull FC), Tyrone Roberts (Gold Coast), Adam Clydsdale (Canberra), Kerrod Holland (Bulldogs), Todd Lowrie (retirement), Honeti Tuha (Parramatta), Chris Houston (Widnes), James McManus (concussion), Joseph Tapine (Raiders)
Strength: A dream halves pairing of Mullen and Hodkinson behind a mobile pack. Newcastle’s season may well hinge on how Bulldogs recruit Hodkinson combines with Mullen in a new-look Knights line-up with plenty of backrow depth.
Weakness: Defence. They conceded almost 26 points a game last season. They may have landed Hodkinson but Knights will need to land a lot more tackles if they are to improve.
Best team: Jake Mamo, Jaelen Feeney, Dane Gagai, Sione Mata’utia, Akuila Uate, Jarrod Mullen, Trent Hodkinson, Kade Snowden, Tyler Randell, Korbin Sims, Robbie Rochow, Tariq Sims, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Joseph Tapine, Mickey Paea, Danny Levi, Jack Stockwell.
Predicted finish: 14th