If you can't beat 'em, pinch their staff.
The Newcastle Knights are currently going through one of the biggest back-room staffing shakeups in the club's history, no doubt hoping it will give them the best possible chance of turning a top eight finish this season into a top four finish in 2022.
And they have raided premiership heavyweights Penrith and the Sydney Roosters to do it.
In a direct response to the club's crippling injury toll over the past two seasons, there are currently sweeping changes being made in the Knights' high performance department following the appointment of Penrith's Hayden Knowles.
The high-profile Knowles, who also looks after the NSW Blues Origin squad, is understood to be bringing as many as five new faces with him to work in strength, conditioning and rehab.
The Knights will also have a new look medical department with long-time club doctor and newly awarded life member Neil Halpin stepping down.
Coach Adam O'Brien has also secured the services of experienced analyst Dennis Russell, who has been one of Trent Robinson's right hand men at the Sydney Roosters for almost a decade.
Among a host of staff casualties are head of high performance Balin Cupples and former Knights player, coach and youth academy manager Scott Dureau. It's understood both were still under contract for at least another season, as were a number of others who are all likely to be paid out.
Cupples, who was brought to the club in 2019 from the Warriors by former coach Nathan Brown, was only re-signed at the end of last year. But he has been under immense pressure this season and has taken the fall due to the club's injury toll.
Dureau, who is still dealing with serious health issues, has been at the club for six years, the past five in a fulltime capacity in coaching and development roles.
Only this week, the Knights announced the appointment of Garth Brennan to head up an expanded pathways and development department.
Hope for late bloomers
Garth Brennan says the door will be open for senior players from the local Newcastle competition to keep their NRL dreams alive as part of the club's new pathways model, citing Parramatta winger Maika Sivo as the perfect example of what is possible.
"There is a message there for any local guy playing in the Newcastle comp who is over 21 who still might have dreams and aspirations," he said. "I'd like our NSW Cup side to have some of those players in there - players who maybe haven't given up on it altogether.
"I want them to know that the dream is not necessarily out of reach and that there is still a pathway there for those players to get on the big stage or, in some instances, get back on the big stage."
Brennan gave Fijian Sivo, who was 23 at the time, an off-season at the Panthers back in 2016 after seeing him score a heap of tries playing in the Ron Massey Cup competition.
"Look at him now," he said.
With Blake Green set to become a specialised halves coach across the entire club next season, the Knights' NRL Women's side will have a new coach when they finally make their debut in an expanded competition.
CEO Phil Gardner told us this week he is hoping that coach will be a female.
Former Knights centre Cory Denniss is back in town after three years on the road and will play with the Wests Rosellas in the local competition next season.
Denniss played 18 NRL games for the Knights between 2016-18 before spending two years at South Sydney. He played Queensland Cup under ex-Knights coach Rick Stone at Burleigh Bears this year but only played a handful of games due to injury.
Denniss' junior club Lakes were hoping to snare him but his former Knights Under 20's coach Todd Lowrie was too quick off the mark.
Knights move delayed
Newcastle Knights' new $20 million centre of excellence at Broadmeadow is on target to be completed by the end of next month or the first week in November.
But it won't become the club's official new base until early January with the Knights to remain at their current Mayfield headquarters for pre-season training up until Christmas.
The reason? The club wants to give the grass on three new full-length training fields adjacent to the complex as much time as possible to develop.
It's understood the club's entire playing group, including juniors and women's teams, will operate out of the centre of excellence.
DSaif best chance
Knights prop Daniel Saifiti is the club's biggest chance of recognition at the Dally M Medal awards to be presented at the Howard Smith Wharves in Brisbane on Monday night.
We're hearing Saifiti, fullback Kalyn Ponga and centre Bradman Best are the only Newcastle players to snare invites to the awards.
Superstar Manly fullback Tom Trobjevic is favoured to take home the major prize ahead of Penrith's Nathan Cleary and Souths' Cody Walker.
Saifiti is vying with Penrith's James Fisher-Harris, Brisbane's Payne Haas and Eels prop Junior Paulo for a frontrow position in the team of the year.
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