KNIGHTS officials are poised to offer coach Nathan Brown an unprecedented “evergreen” contract that would employ him indefinitely, rather than for a specified number of seasons.
Brown, who has been at Newcastle’s helm since the end of 2015, is in the final season of a three-year deal.
He has been discussing an extension for several months, and Wests Group/Knights CEO Phil Gardner initially envisaged a new tenure of at least three additional seasons, which would ensure he overtook Michael Hagan as the longest-serving coach in Newcastle’s history.
But Gardner told the Newcastle Herald on Friday that Wests were now proposing an open-ended, performance-based deal that would hinge on mutual trust.
If Brown was to deliver sustained success, he could potentially remain as Newcastle’s coach for the rest of his career. Alternatively, if he was unable to meet specified criteria, Wests would be entitled to terminate the deal at short notice for an agreed payout figure.
“I’m of the view that it should be an evergreen contract, with performance criteria in it,” Gardner said.
“Then we’ll know when it’s time, and he’ll know when it’s time, based on whether or not the players are still listening and performing … to me that is the best way to run it, rather than have all the issues with fixed terms, and payouts when things don’t work.”
Asked what he meant by “evergreen”, Gardner replied: “An ongoing contract, the same as mine is.”
Gardner acknowledged such a deal would be in stark contrast to the contracts of other NRL coaches. “It’s never happened to my knowledge before,” Gardner said. “But a lot of things we do in Newcastle are different.”
He said “Nathan is very open to that style of contract”, even though it could leave him in a precarious position if he did not deliver results.
“He’s got to have a lot of confidence in us, and we have to have a lot of confidence in him,” Gardner said.
“What has been the case in rugby league, is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of confidence in the coach from the club, and vice versa.
“This would certainly set a precedent. It would need both parties to trust and have confidence in each other.
“Effectively what we’re saying is: ‘We think you’re the right man for the job, until you’re not the right man for the job’.
“And when that time comes, we’ll deal with it sensitively and appropriately.”
Gardner admitted Brown might ask for a more conventional contract.
“Nathan is happy here, and we’re very happy with him,” he said.
“But he and his manager could say no.
“This is where we [the Wests Group] would rather go, and I think it’s where we’ll end up. That’s what the negotiation is all about.”
Gardner was hoping to seal the deal within a matter of weeks.
“Our expectation is we’ll have it resolved by the end of this month,” he said.
As well as Brown, Newcastle’s head of football, Darren Mooney, and a host of the club’s support staff are also coming off contract later this year.
Brown and Mooney joined forces at Newcastle in the 2016 pre-season, after the club finished as wooden spooners the previous year and former coach Rick Stone was sacked.
They set about rebuilding the roster by promoting young talent and making strategic signings.
The Knights have since collected two more wooden spoons under Brown, but last season they made significant progress on their disastrous 2016 campaign, winning an extra four games and improving their for-and-against statistics by 275 points.
Boosted by a host of high-profile recruits, in particular former Roosters halfback and ex-Cowboys dynamo Kalyn Ponga, they have won three of the first six games of 2018.