Newcastle’s board all voted in favour of Smith on Wednesday nightÂ ensuring aÂ contract extension for the well respected NRL coach. It’s believed negotiations with the coach and his management will begin next week.
After parting ways with the Eels mid-2006, Smith signed on for 3 years with Newcastle. However after a torrid first year where he was in the firing line, his clean-out has proved very successful – allowing the club to now be in a solid position with a quality roster of players.
It’s believed Smith was keen to establish a ‘post-Andrew Johns’ mentality at Newcastle, something that was ingrained in some of the veterans minds it seems. Since bringing several new faces on board and asking several to leave, the Knights are now considered a genuine threat – having speed and skill to burn across the park.
An interesting statistic remains; should Brian Smith be resigned for an additional 2 years; bringing his total time to 5 years at Newcastle – this would mirror the time frames it took Craig Belamy and Des Hasler to rebuild their outfits and secure their NRL premierships.
After coming under such pressure in the first year, a 12 month period where even John Singleton and powerful knights figures such as Jack Newton all pushed for the removal of Brian Smith – it seems worlds away now, with the successful coach proving his ability yet again and giving the Knights a genuine shot at the title.
Ideally, the Knights would have liked to sign the deal several weeks into the 2009 NRL season so they could gauge how Smith and the team are tracking, however this looks unlikely.
Some have asked why should Smith be re-signed when the Knights missed the finals series again in 2008. The nine-placed Newcastle side missed the finals by a single victory and considering injuries to key players at various times, few could argue the level of improvement in the side.
It’s believed the Knights may move to offer Brian Smith an incentive based deal, ensuring they have a ‘get-out’ clause should things get tough at stages in the future.
His current deal had a “trigger” clause within the paperwork, where additional years work were guaranteed if the Knights went Top 4 in either 2007 or 2008.
A similar offer may be added to the latest deal for Brian Smith; however the other factor working for Smith is that there are very few quality top line NRL coaches waiting in the wings. One option could be Steve Folkes who has said on radio in the past month he is keen for the door to reopen for him at NRL level and would be happy to leave his West Indies Cricket Fitness position.
Burraston of the Knights confirmed “various tenures were discussed at the board meeting” and it would be his job to find “common ground” with Smith.
“It may be that it’s just a five-minute meeting and a shake of the hand, but if we’re apart we’ve got to work out some sort of compromise and how we can get together,” Burraston said. “It needs to suit him and it needs to suit us.”
Burraston said it would be premature to speculate on tenure but confirmed that trigger clauses were likely to be mentioned in negotiations.
“There’s a whole lot of things that go into the contract and it’s fairly complicated,” he said.
“Once we get an understanding of all that, we’ll know exactly what the terms will be and how many years that is, and if it has triggers for new years or whatever.”