ADAM O'Brien's admission last weekend that he was "envious" of the NRL dynasty Penrith are building raises the question of what the Newcastle Knights are doing to replicate or emulate the Panthers' success.
The answer, based on recent evidence, would appear not as much as they perhaps could or should be.
I'll give you three examples, arising over the past couple of weeks, that suggest the Knights have a long way to go before they are heading in the same direction as the NRL's reigning premiers.
This time last week, I was writing about the recent departure of the highly credentialled Garth Brennan, who nine months after being head-hunted and recruited as Newcastle's pathways manager, handed in his resignation, explaining that he wasn't "on the same page" as the powers-that-be.
Brennan, incidentally, spent six years coaching Penrith's lower grades, during which time he not only won several premierships but nurtured a host of future NRL stars.
It is hard to imagine a better qualified person to oversee Newcastle's junior-development system than the born-and-bred Novocastrian and former Gold Coast Titans head coach, which is presumably why the Knights signed him in the first place.
Brennan had barely cleared his desk when a young unknown called Grant Anderson lived out a fairytale by scoring two tries on debut for Melbourne Storm in their 26-18 win against Sydney Roosters at the SCG.
Anderson, who hails from Swansea and played his junior football with Valentine-Eleebana, was in the Knights' under-18s and under-20s before he was apparently left to read between the lines and figure out they had no intention of retaining him.
Less than 24 hours after the Newcastle rookie was performing heroics for Melbourne, a Knights backline featuring six Queenslanders and an Englishman were made to look second-rate in a 42-6 loss to the Panthers.
Penrith's backline, incidentally, comprised six local juniors and fullback Dylan Edwards, who was in their system long before he made his top-grade debut.
Want some more food for thought? Well, look no further than former Knights forward Josh King, who has started in every game for Melbourne this season. All but one of his previous 25 games for Newcastle had been off the bench.
Or consider that the Knights had recently shown interest in signing Brisbane centre Herbie Farnworth and ask yourself what that might have meant for 20-year-old Bradman Best, who, like Farnworth, is a left-side centre.
The point I'm trying to illustrate is that the Panthers have emerged as a superpower after making a strategic decision to invest in and develop their junior nursery.
The Knights, who in their glory days relied so heavily on home-grown talent, seem to have become preoccupied with recruitment.
Who cares where a player comes from if he can help win a game this weekend?
All of which brings me to the club's management, the Wests Group, who are now in their fifth season as owners.
We should never forget that Wests saved the Knights from possible oblivion back in 2017, when the NRL were threatening to relocate the embattled franchise.
Under Wests, the Knights have been profitable every season, they've built a Centre of Excellence, they've entered the NRLW competition and their flagship men's team has reached the NRL finals in the past two seasons.
But here are a few statistics that might surprise you.
Under their original membership-owned model, between 1988 and the end of 2011, the Knights won 51.0 per cent of their games.
Under the disastrous Nathan Tinkler regime, their winning ratio was 45.3 per cent.
Under their original ownership, the Knights ran seventh, sixth and fourth and won a final inside their first five years. All on a shoestring budget.
In the three years under Tinkler, they won two play-offs and progressed to within 80 minutes of the premiership decider in 2013.
Wests are now facing the distinct possibility of finishing their first five years in charge without a single success in the finals, and with a winning percentage (42.9) that is lower than at any time in the club's history, other than the three wooden spoon seasons between 2015-17, when the club was managed on an interim basis by the NRL.
This is not written with any desire to put the boot into Wests.
Knights fans should be eternally grateful for everything Wests have done.
But I think what this season has shown is that they need help.
The perception is that the big decisions are made by a select handful of people, in particular Wests/Knights CEO Philip Gardner, Wests chairman Owen Kilpatrick, Wests director Geoff Coburn and coach O'Brien.
I can't help thinking it's time for Wests to appoint a football club board of directors, to provide expertise and occasionally forthright feedback.
Some dissenting voices might actually go a long way.
I don't see why that would be a sign of weakness, or why there should be anything to fear.
Running an NRL club is a bloody tough business.
There are any number of good people around town who I'm sure would be willing to lend a hand, if only they were asked.
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