He was in the in-demand assistant coach from Melbourne and Sydney's prestige clubs who came to Newcastle after the shock departure of former coach Nathan Brown parted ways with the Newcastle Knights in August last year.
Adam O'Brien took the helm at the beginning of the year, in his first appointment to a head coaching role, leading the team to two swift victories before the NRL was put on hiatus amid the rapid spread of coronavirus.
O'Brien joins Barry Toohey in episode four of Toohey's News, shedding light on life in isolation, how the team is coping as the future of the 2020 NRL campaign remains in doubt and his vision for the club on the other side of the pandemic.
"I'm not one to talk about rebuilds," he tells Toohey. "I don't look too far back and don't look too far forward.
"I think there is a competitive team there right now.
"I want McDonald Jones Stadium to have that formidable reputation again that if you come here - even if you do manage to come away with a win - you're going to play a competitive and tough footy team.
"It's a tough town. If we want to live up to that, we need to be a tough team to play."
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Episode five of Toohey's News will publish on Thursday.