Newcastle Knights dropped ball with sacking

Axed: Rick Stone, inset, Matt Gidley at the Knights press conference on the day the news broke. Picture: Darren Pateman, Simone De PeakBETWEEN THE LINES

THERE is no easy way to sack a coach, but the Knights dropped the ball when they sent Rick Stone packing on Monday.

While players were at Newcastle beach that morning for their recovery session, Knights directors were engaged in a telephone hook-up during which they decided Stone’s position had become untenable and they instructed chief executive Matt Gidley to show him the door.

Consistently sub-standard performances during the team’s run of 12 losses from the past 14 games, culminating in their humiliating 52-6 hammering from Souths last Saturday night, had convinced the board that players were no longer responding to Stone’s methods.

Gidley knew the board meeting had been called and that Stone was on shaky ground, and told the soon-to-be former coach as much early on Monday morning when they spoke in the club’s Mayfield headquarters.

Covering all contingencies, Gidley had also sounded out friend and fellow Knights Hall of Famer Danny Buderus the night before to ask if he would step in and fill the breach for the rest of the season if the board decided to sack Stone, which they did.

By the time Gidley emerged from the meeting to tell Stone around 1pm, and to plan the next step with Knights media manager Tara White, the news had already broken on social media.

Players had already been dismissed for the day, so some found out via social media before they received a club-issued text message sent by Knights operations manager Warren Smiles.

Details of that message were leaked, presumably by a player, to a journalist on Wednesday.

With the benefit of hindsight, the Knights could have conducted the recovery session at Mayfield on Monday, kept the players together, and told them of Stone’s demise in person.

That would have also given Stone a chance to say goodbye to them face to face.

After 10 years of loyal service, during which he did everything asked of him when pushed sideways to make way for Wayne Bennett, Stone deserved that.

■ It has been a big week for Knights five-eighth Carlos Tuimavave.

The Knights announced on Saturday that they had granted the former New Zealand Warrior a release from the final year of his two-year contract so that he could take up a three-year deal with English Super League club Hull starting next season.

The following day, the 23-year-old playmaker kicked the winning field goal to cap a miraculous 35-34 NSW Cup victory over Canterbury at Belmore Sportsground.

The Knights had trailed 34-12 midway through the second half, during which both teams were reduced to 11 players.

Tuimavave, who has played four NRL games this season but is yet to taste success in Newcastle colours, was then recalled to the top squad on Tuesday to play five-eighth against the Dragons at Jubilee Oval on Sunday.

Caretaker coach Danny Buderus named Tuimavave alongside Tyrone Roberts in the halves, pushed captain Kurt Gidley back to fullback and moved Jake Mamo to the wing.

■ Knights centre Dane Gagai is comfortable with his decision to re-sign with the Knights, despite the team’s poor results this season.

Gagai, who made a spectacular Origin debut this year, turned down offers from several NRL rivals to sign a new two-year deal with the Knights in April.

‘‘That’s why I re-signed here – the young boys we’ve got in the team,’’ Gagai said. ‘‘Jake Mamo had an unbelievable game for us against the Rabbits, the Mata’utia boys are still young, I’m only 24 myself, and we’ve got Joey Tapine who can come up and play.’’

Gagai was in doubt in the lead-up to the game against Souths due to an irregular heartbeat but was given the all-clear by his cardiologist last Thursday.

Chasing Rabbits for most of the night put his heart under more strain than he would have preferred, but Gagai said he felt no ill effects and would look out for warning signs in future.

‘‘It’s not uncommon for athletes to get it, there’s no cure for it, and they said it will probably come on again but it just depends how aggressive it comes back,’’ he said.

‘‘It was obviously a bit of a frightening thing and he said it will come back again, but if I don’t get the dizzy spells or anything like that, you can play through it fine.’’

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