Newcastle Knights close to new deal with coach Nathan Brown

SUPPORT: Knights coach Nathan Brown is expected to sign a new two-year deal.
SUPPORT: Knights coach Nathan Brown is expected to sign a new two-year deal.

KNIGHTS coach Nathan Brown appears almost certain to sign a two-year contract extension by early in the new year – with strings attached.

Wests Group/Knights chief executive Phil Gardner predicted an agreement was not far away.

“We certainly want to have that locked away before the start of the season,” Gardner told the Newcastle Herald.

“It probably won’t be before Christmas but I’m sure that, subject to [Wests] board ratification, his contract will be resolved well before the season kicking off. We’re looking forward to a long and happy relationship.”

Gardner said Brown’s new deal would include “performance criteria” to safeguard Wests against the worst-case scenario.

The coach is in the final season of a three-year contract. After collecting two wooden spoons, he has signed a host of quality imports and Newcastle appear poised to start climbing the ladder. If for some reason they don’t, Wests will be covered by get-out clauses.

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“There is expectation that has been built up, and we all hope it is realised,” Gardner said. “But when you sign a contract with someone, it has to be fair to both parties.

“We have a lot of confidence in Nathan.

“But it’s important to be really clear about the positives for good performance and the negatives for poor performance.

“We’re having those conversations with Nathan, and we should have that contract done before the start of the season.”

Gardner said he imagined that Wests would “absolutely” be flexible about the win targets they set Brown if there were mitigating circumstances. But he added that another wooden spoon would not be tolerated.

“If Mitchell Pearce breaks his leg in the first game, the expectation of performance will be completely different,” Gardner said.

“If he has all his cattle available and well, obviously the expectation will be higher than if we have terrible run of injuries.

“That’s the hard bit about doing these sorts of contracts, that you can’t always be black and white.

“But another wooden spoon, clearly there would be no expectation that we could continue. We’d have to change.” 

As well as tangible success on the field, Gardner said it was important that Brown “represents the city in a positive manner.”

“There is basic performance criteria, and then there will be the soft issues around leadership, how he gets on with people, being open to new ways of doing things, and how he deals the community and media.”

If Brown stays with Newcastle until the end of his proposed extension, he will become the club’s longest-serving head coach after Michael Hagan, who was in the hot seat for six years (2001-06).