Sydney Roosters assistant coach Adam O'Brien only has to pass Phil Gardner's "character test" next week to become the 11th head coach of the Newcastle Knights.
And we are hearing there is a strong possibility former Canberra Raiders coach David Furner could end up in Newcastle as O'Brien's assistant.
O'Brien, who cut his coaching teeth at the Melbourne Storm for 13 years before linking with the Roosters this season, is now at unbackable odds to take Nathan Brown's job next season with two of his biggest rivals for the role, Jason Ryles and Craig Fitzgibbon, withdrawing from the race.
Knights CEO Gardner will travel to Sydney next week to interview both O'Brien and Furner. Interestingly, Furner had already been short-listed for an assistant's role should defensive coach Kristian Woolf depart even before Brown's decision was made last Tuesday.
There is also a chance former Knights prop and current Cowboys assistant coach David Fairleigh could be interviewed but the certainty around O'Brien landing the job has left many potential applicants not even bothering to take part in the process.
Suggestions Fitzgibbon was initially the pea for the job and the coach the senior Knights players wanted is off the mark. The reality is O'Brien has been in the box seat ever since the mood among the club's hierarchy for a change of coach shifted just after the Origin series ended and the team's run of six straight defeats started.
It was as far back as then that O'Brien's name was spoken about as a potential coach should Brown fall on his sword or be moved on. O'Brien's agent is Isaac Moses, who also manages prop David Klemmer and the likes of Kurt Mann, Tautau Moga and Hymel Hunt.
Conversations were had and there was a rumoured meeting involving Knights list manager Troy Pezet, Moses and O'Brien and with O'Brien clearly interested, the pressure from within the club began to mount on Brown.
The back end of the Sydney Roosters game at the SCG where the defending premiers scored six tries in the final 24 minutes for a 48-10 win was a sign a number of key players were aware of what was happening behind the scenes and not busting their backsides for the coach.
A fortnight later, after Brown dumped four players and allowed centre Jesse Ramien to walk out of his contract, the team responded by being thumped by Manly 30-6 in another second half cave-in. For many then, there was no way back for the coach.
O'Brien, who now has the blessing of Roosters coach Trent Robinson to take the Knights job, will have a big say in whether Furner becomes his assistant.
We wonder if Jason Ryles is now regretting his decision to turn down the job of Knights assistant coach at the end of last season to remain at the Storm. He may well be now on the verge of the top job had he made the move.
On the way out
We told you last week Knights assistant Kristian Woolf was the favourite for the vacant coaching job at English Super League club St Helens.
He has the job with an official announcement expected within the next week after he finalises the finer details of his contract. Woolf's departure opens the door for Furner to potentially link up with O'Brien at the Knights.
But in another significant change, we are also hearing the club's other assistant coach James Shepherd, who has looked after the side's attack, could also be on his way out even though he has 12 months to run on his contract.
Knights five-eighth Mason Lino is a little lighter in the hip pocket after being fined by the club following a "low-level" incident at a Hamilton hotel a month ago.
Lino was involved in a minor "push and shove" with a couple of drinkers at the Greenroof Hotel that created a bit of unwanted attention for the club.
He has since fronted the club's disciplinary panel and was fined $15,000 with half of it suspended. He joins Jacob Saifiti and Tautau Moga as the three players fined by the club this years for off-field offences.
Pickers chase Rosellas coach
Matt Lantry is at the helm of the best resourced and most successful club in the Newcastle league competition with his first grade side runaway minor premiers and the hottest of hot favourites to win the premiership heading into this weekend's final round after just two defeats this season.
But despite all that, we are hearing the former Newcastle Knights NSW Cup coach is not a lay down misere to be coaching the Wests Rosellas again in 2020.
Maitland are in the throes of advertising for a new coach after Luke Dorn decided not to go again next year but we have been told by sources close to the club Lantry is their number one target.
He is a Maitland junior who lives at Bolwarra and it's not the first time his name has come up in coaching discussions at the club.
He's apparently been sounded out about whether he is interested in the job but has not given an indication either way. At least in recent times, only two coaches - Tony Price and Craig Miller - have remained as coach of the Rosellas longer than three years and they both won three consecutive premierships. Lantry is in his third year and is yet to win a title although that could change in the next few weeks.
Knights prop James Gavet will wait to talk to the club's new coach before deciding on his future but admits there is a possibility he may bail out of the final year of his contract in Newcastle to finish his career in the English Super League.
Gavet confirmed there is interest from "a couple of English clubs" but his preference is to play for another couple of seasons in the NRL before he potentially finishes in England.
"There's been no offers but there is interest there but I'd rather stay here at the Knights for a few more years if that can be sorted," he said.
Brown's departure will no doubt leave the futures of a few players up in the air with a new coach coming in.
Unwanted hooker Danny Levi, who has a year to run at the Knights, is yet to find a new club while prop Herman Ese'ese has a year to run but has been deep into negotiations with the Bulldogs.
It's understood Jesse Ramien is considering a big four year deal from North Queensland as well as an offer from the Bulldogs.