Newcastle players on chopping block in NRL

Newcastle have warned their under-performing playing group that they’re on the chopping block after axing coach Rick Stone.

Chief executive Matt Gidley suggested the bloodletting would not stop at Stone, who will be replaced by club great Danny Buderus for the rest of the season, after an underwhelming 2015 in which they’ve won just six games.

Stone’s position became untenable after the Knights logged just two wins since April and the club’s board pulled the pin after their embarrassing 52-6 loss to South Sydney on Saturday.

However Gidley promised the players would also be held accountable.

The 2016 Knights squad is already shaping as vastly different to this year’s group with skipper Kurt Gidley to retire, Beau Scott on his way to Parramatta and NSW halfback Trent Hodkinson set to join Newcastle from Canterbury.

None of the Knights’ senior playing group is off-contract at the end of 2015 and Gidley hinted some players could be moved on, warning they had six rounds to prove they wanted to be at the club.

“When you get the type of performances we’ve had over a long period of time, you’ve got to look to make changes,” Gidley said.

“We can’t just sit back and tolerate poor performances over an extended period of time.

“The easy option would be to get to the end of the year and do a formal review process.

“But we feel like there’s an opportunity now for the team to use the next seven weeks to try and demonstrate some character traits that our club has been built on.”

Gidley revealed the club board had been considering Stone’s position for a number of weeks after their string of losses.

Buderus will take over as coach until the end of the year but has ruled out holding onto the position next year.

Former St George Illawarra coach Nathan Brown and ex-Broncos mentor Anthony Griffin shape as the front-runners after expressing desires to coach at NRL level again.

“(Stone’s sacking) something we’ve been considering for a number of weeks now,” Gidley said.

“It’s clear the team has been underperforming for a number of months now which has been disappointing.

“We had a board discussion this morning and arrived at the position where we’d go our separate paths.

“We’ll now go through a process looking to appoint a new coach.”

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