It has been the most awful of times for everyone involved in the Central Newcastle club over the past few weeks.
The tragic death of teenage prop Joel Dark five days after he collapsed during a game has, not surprisingly, had a shattering effect on everyone involved with the club.
So traumatised are many of his team-mates, they didn't want to finish the season, with club officials, who have done such a great job during the crisis, pulling the first grade side from the competition during the week with a couple of rounds left to play.
Only time will ease the pain and hurt for those badly affected but at the end of a gloomy period comes some much needed brighter news for the club.
Newcastle's reigning player of the year and former Knights and Penrith halfback Luke Walsh has quit the Western Suburbs Rosellas to link with the Butchers Boys for next season.
At the same time, former Knights utility Dylan Phythian has also signed for 2021 along with the bulk of the current squad.
Walsh's signing, in particular, is a massive coup. He's had this year off but was easily the most influential player in the competition in 2019 as the Rosellas stormed to the premiership.
Walsh, who signed several weeks ago with the deal kept quiet by the club, will renew acquaintances with his old lower grade Knights coach Phil Williams at the Butchers.
"Walshy's been on board for a fair while now and likes what we are about as a club with how we are bringing our juniors through,"Central president Heath Anderson told us. "He's been coached by Phil before and that's another reason he's joined us.
"Things have obviously been very tough for everyone here over the past few weeks but we will come out of it stronger and even more united as a club."
Storm rumours as coach buys in Merewether
In a sure sign Knights coach Adam O'Brien is enjoying the job and has embraced the club and the city, he will get off the renting merry-go-around next month after he and wife Sharyn took the plunge and bought their own home in Merewether.
Since arriving in Newcastle 12 months ago, O'Brien has been renting a house in Charlestown owned by former Sydney Roosters and Knights winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall. It's understood he quietly made his Merewether purchase as much as three months ago and will move in within the next few weeks.
Intriguingly though, it comes at a time when O'Brien's name is now being bandied about as a potential leading contender for the Melbourne Storm coaching job if, as expected, Craig Bellamy departs at the end of next season.
Toohey's News: Listen to Barry Toohey's new podcast in your Podcast app
That's despite the fact the Knights coach has two years left to run on his current deal in Newcastle.
O'Brien spent 11 seasons at the Storm under Bellamy and was so highly regarded by the club when he left to join the Roosters coaching staff last year that he was awarded life membership.
His performance in lifting the Knights into the finals for the first time in seven years in his first year as a head coach despite an horrendous injury toll and the challenges of COVID have also not gone unnoticed.
There is no doubt the Knights would play hard-ball with any attempt by the Storm to try and poach O'Brien.
It might well be a reason why Knights CEO Phil Gardner has not ruled out the possibility of offering his coach a contract extension after the club does a full review during the off-season.
Tuala Origin talk
With contenders falling over like nine-pins and options scarce, unheralded Knights centre Enari Tuala has featured in conversations in and around the Queensland Origin squad over the past few weeks.
It would be some rise for the former Cowboys centre given where he was this time last season. He has been a real find for the Knights and the Maroons' lack of outside backs has almost reached crisis point. But his performance in defence against the Titans last night certainly won't help his cause.
Big winger Edrick Lee, who was selected as an 18th man during the series last season before having to withdraw, is a more likely contender. He's been good since returning from a broken arm and has put himself in the selection frame.
No Frizell friction
Despite the perception, David Klemmer says he wasn't having a go at soon-to-be new teammate Tyson Frizell after Daniel Saifiti scored a soft try against the Dragons last Sunday.
"I was talking to the ref about his double movement call, not Friz," Klem told us.
Kearney out of play
Former Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is understood to have been sounded out by the Knights about the club's vacant assistant coaching position with David Furner departing for the Bulldogs at the end of the season before linking with the Storm late on Friday.
Along with Dragons caretaker Dean Young, who seems certain to join the Cowboys, Kearney was among a number of potential candidates the Knights have considered for the job according to CEO Phil Gardner.
The possibility of coach Adam O'Brien filling the role from within has also been discussed. Current development coaches Rory Kostjasyn and Eric Smith could potentially step up if O'Brien decides to go that way rather than bring in a new face.
We're told the Knights aren't in any real hurry to make a final decision.
Watson deal close
Knights recruitment boss Alex McKinnon expects Connor Watson's new one-year deal with the club to be officially signed off on and registered with the NRL in the next week or two.
Uate's big regret
Former Knights winger Aku Uate says one of the biggest regrets of his career was not being given the chance to farewell the club's fans before he was traded to Manly in a deal involving Jamie Buhrer at the end of 2016. Uate is this week's special guest on Toohey's News: The Podcast.
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
IN THE NEWS:
- $7.25 million sale at 38 John Parade, Merewether sets new record for Newcastle
- Car slams into unit complex at Glendale, residents escape injury
- Mark Latham questions in Upper House why Black Lives Matter, gender equality and Adam Goodes film was shown at Maitland High School
- Car plunges off cliff face at Bar Beach in Newcastle