MATTHEW Kennedy feels like his familiarity at Souths will be beneficial now the former NRL player has taken over as head coach at the Newcastle Rugby League club.
Kennedy fills the void left by Andrew Ryan, who recently picked up a job with the Knights, and he will be at the helm for the upcoming 2021 season.
The first-grade appointment comes after four years of service at Townson Oval - three looking after reserves and a coronavirus-impacted 2020 campaign as Ryan's assistant.
"Just having that existing relationship with the players already, I think it's really important and definitely helps," Kennedy told the Newcastle Herald.
Lambton-based Kennedy, 39, grew up in Mount Hutton and was a Windale junior before joining the Knights system as a teenager.
The forward played 45 NRL games for the Knights between 2003 and 2005, alongside the likes of Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus and under the guidance of Michael Hagan.
He then had a successful stint in France with the Pia Donkeys before eventually returning to Australia and joining Wests for a Newcastle RL premiership three-peat from 2012 to 2014.
"Hopefully that accumulation of experience will hold me in good stead. The people I've been coached by and just knowing the things that worked well for me as a player," he said.
Kennedy is a PE teacher at Hunter Sports High School and looks after the rugby league program for girls, including contracted Knights player Jesse Southwell, having previously mentored the boys. It was at the Gateshead institution where he made contact with then Souths coach Ben Cross, who invited him to join the club in 2017.
"I've had two years with both of them [Cross and Ryan] at Souths," he said.
"They have different styles but I learned a truckload."
The Lions won titles in 2016 and 2018, but were beaten by Cessnock in this year's decider.
Kennedy said the bulk of October's grand final squad have re-signed for next year.
Lions fullback Lachlan Walmsley is the "big loss", having linked with UK club Whitehaven.
The likes of Dylan Lucas and Harry Croker are on "train and trial" contracts with the Knights over summer.
Corey Brown has been recruited from Orange with Kennedy saying "he's fast and a good footballer".
Brendon Simpson (not playing), Tori Freeman (injury) and the Afflick brothers, Justin and Jacob (Macquarie) all return.
Pre-season training begins on Tuesday.
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