Brown claims Knights' life ‘ruined careers’
OUTGOING Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown has his regrets. He hasn't achieved what he wanted on the field but he has done so off it, claiming that the club had a huge culture problem when he arrived in 2016.
Brown took over from rival coach Wayne Bennett, a man with whom he has no love lost, and the Knights were a basketcase.
But worse according to Brown was not just the fact Bennett left the club in a state of ruin but that the drinking culture that had pervaded has ruined careers, like that of former halfback Jarrod Mullen, who's downfall since his career ended has seen him hit with drug charges.
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Brown said the club was in a bad way at the time with the culture totally taken over by drinking and that curbing that is his greatest achievement there.
"Probably the biggest thing is when I first came here to be honest with you, the best work was done at The Greenroof, at the dance floors at the nightclubs in the bars, and the drinking culture was horrible. It's ruined careers," Brown said.
"Where now, I feel these kids know how to prepare properly and live life properly.
"That's my greatest achievement."
The club won just five games during his first two years at the club and Brown admitted the state of its affairs were concerning considering the salary cap was blown out by needing to 'pay overs' to get people to Newcastle.
He said without the help of some club legends he would never have been able to change to the players' habits off the field.
"Probably what I'm most happy with is the Knights are going to have a next generation of kids who have got people to model their life on, Tim Glasby and David Klemmer, and they've got people who prepare for football games as their number one priority," he said.
"When I first came here, rugby league was probably the fourth thing on people's mind here. It needs to be the first thing, and now the next young generation are going to get the benefit of some good young players and good professionals.
"The new generation is going to get the benefit of what's happened. Seeing people like Lachy Fitzgibbon and Daniel Saifiti and Sione Mata'utia become consistent first-graders is a real credit to them and what they've been through. They've been through a lot those boys and they've been able to hang in there and become players.
"When I came here I knew what the task was. I came here and it was worse than what I thought when I took the job. When you're starting from that base there's the highest likelihood you're not going to be the person that gets the most benefit from that."
Had Brown survived he admitted there would have been pressure on him next season, particularly if the Knights started poorly.
Instead, he is still one of rugby league's great rebuilders.
"Everyone wants the ultimate prize. But life isn't full of fairytales, I'll give you the tip.
"I've done a lot of heavy lifting with a lot of people. But in the business I'm in you don't always get the cherry on the top, some other coach gets that."
Brown's present options are limited. The St Helen's job looks set for Kristian Woolf and Justin Holbrook has claimed the Gold Coast job.