TONY BUTTERFIELD: A stumble on the way forward

Knights CEO Matt Gidley, Knights Chairman Brian McGuigan and Knights Board member John Quayle at a meeting talking about sacking of Knights Coach Rick Stone. Picture: Simone De Peak THE Newcastle way?
杭州桑拿

The story of Rick Stone’s departure from the Knights has been well covered this week. And so it should, given his role at the helm steering the club away from the Tinkler iceberg and into less troubled waters.

But the ship has continued to suffer from the damage of more than a decade of bumps and gashes, rendering its financial keel exposed, an ownership structure in flux and its very future in doubt. The recent form of the team on the field and waning appeal off it has only served to hasten inevitable decisions for the new Knights board.

And so, presumably deferring to its football committee, which it must be said with unfeigned respect apart from John Quayle lack real football-specific experience, the board did what boards do – make hard decisions. Matt Gidley, as CEOs do, delivered the bad news to his employee, and Stone was sacked.

Some are saying it may have been the right decision done the wrong way.

Was it ideal to spear him now? With six games left in the season? Wayne Bennett was allowed to see his season out. Likewise, Geoff Toovey. Even Phil Stubbins. Was this really the Newcastle way?

I mean, the potential for a couple of wins with Bedsy at the helm, as great as it will be to see, hardly warrants denying a loyal club man a chance to finish what he started with the blokes he started it with. Not to mention leaving with some public sense of dignity – after all, he is a home-grown servant.

Now, what a private business does with its employees is none of my business – unless that business actively seeks to engage, entice and embrace me in cultural and economic exchange. Then I expect consistency and authenticity in management, whereby they, if only in my mind as a fan, become accountable.

It follows that these decisions of senior management, not unlike the way players are expected to interact in the community or represent on the national stage, must also be in accord with those very same values that they say make our club unique.

RICK STONE

In that regard, the irony wasn’t lost on the gathered journos who attended Monday’s media scrum when the ‘‘Newcastle Way’’ was rolled out in the form of a strategic vision for the club. With all that was going on, it probably lacked for a bit of timing. Every journo was naturally focused on the here and now, rather than any road map to the future.

When the dust has settled, Matt Gidley will get his chance to better spread his positive message for the future. But for now and Rick Stone, former coach of the Newcastle Knights, it can rightly be said he did his best with what he had.

His contribution to the club, and the game, to this point, is a testament to his work ethic, his generous nature and his love of a sport he played with his old man.

And, while he may walk away disappointed in his treatment this close to Mad Monday, he’s not the type to dwell too long on things he can’t control. Rather, I expect he’ll focus on his family and how fortunate he has been to step out on the big stage for his home town and fulfil a dream. Bali sounds nice.

Thanks Rick and good luck.

COMETH the hour, cometh the man. Danny Buderus has taken the reins of the Knights and he, least of all, knows where things might end up. But he’s as game as ever and I reckon would have been mad to knock it back. I mean, it’s what he does.

What players and management do now in response to the situation they helped create is a matter for them. But there will be strained relations indeed in the stands if players and support staff don’t aim up for their new first-grade coach and No.1 son, Danny Bodacious.

WITH the NRL competition starting down a long home straight, players and fans alike wouldn’t be human if they didn’t sneak a thought about what might be. You’ve seen the opposition and you have decided – we can do this. We can win this thing!

I thought as the competition rounds wind down to the long weekend in October, I’d touch each week on the history of grand finals starting with the very first decade and a bit:

1908 – A nine-team competition in a fledgling professional code does well to attract 4000 paying spectators to its first grand final at the old Sydney Showground. Souths are too good for Easts led by H (Jersey) Flegg in the start of a great rivalry that simmers to this day.

1909 – The unthinkable – Balmain refuse to play the GF as a curtain-raiser to a ‘Wallabies v Kangaroos’ exhibition match. Souths duly turn up to kick off, regather and score to claim another title. Incidentally, the first Newcastle team actually beat Souths in the last round only to go down to them in the semi-final. This was Newcastle’s last game in the big time for 79 years.

1910 – The Newtown Bluebags beat the mighty Rabbitohs on countback after a 4-4 draw.

1911 – The Glebe club has its one and only chance of winning a grand final before its demise in 1929. Hopes for the inner-city club rest squarely on his shoulders of 1908 London Olympics gold medal-winning Wallabies captain Chris McKivat. Alas, selected to captain the Kangaroo tour leaving two weeks before the finals, McKivat and his foundation club are to remain forever uncrowned, losing 11-8 to Easts in the first of their three consecutive premierships.

1912 – Easts become the first team to win the premiership without playing a final. Their captain, Dally Messenger, mesmerises crowds wherever he plays, having stood down from rep duty. Continuing to build his legend, a penalty kick at goal of more than ‘‘65 yards’’ is one of the highlights of the year as the old leather ball dissects the posts for a dramatic 9-8 win over arch enemies Souths.

1913 – Easts again win the premiership without playing a final as an indication of the skills brought to bear by Messenger and the finest team of the game’s early years. After three premierships as captain, Messenger retires having set in place the cornerstone of a not-so-grateful game.

1914 – The emergence of Souths ‘‘wonder winger’’ Harold Horder (19 tries in 14 games) is enough to get the Bunnies back in the winners’ circle. Again no final is played before WWI breaks out across Europe and thoughts turn to the mother country, duty and travel.

1915 – Balmain storm the competition undefeated to win their maiden premiership.

1916 – The Tigers’ dominance continues, winning the grand final in all three grades for the second year running. In first grade, ghosts of indignities past spur on the Tigers to down the cocky Souths 5-3 on July 26 at the SCG.

1917 – Arthur ‘‘Pony’’ Halloway captains the Tigers to the title after they led the field throughout. No final is played and Souths again are runners-up.

1918 – Harold Horder continues to score tries, setting a record of 21 that stands for more than 35 years. Souths are again premiers without playing a final.

1919-20 – League legend Halloway again takes the Tigers to consecutive premierships, capping off an amazing career at every level of the game. A testimonial game is played that nets the veteran 100 pounds.

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