In the wake of a potentially career ending ACL injury, Knights hooker Slade Griffin will be handed a wrestling coach role in an effort to solidify Newcastle's woeful defence.
While Griffin will still hope to make a comeback to NFL in 2019, the Herald Sun reports that Knights coach Nathan Brown has deemed it unlikely for him to appear at the highest level of competition.
“He has to see his specialist and if everything is really good healing-wise from his first operation, you’d expect with his next operation, if that goes well, he may play very late in the season,” Brown said.
“But I’d suggest it wouldn’t be in the NRL. He’d be aiming to have a few games at the back end in reserve grade.
“Even that would hinge on him being right to have the second operation straight away. If it hasn’t healed enough and he has got to wait another month or two, he’ll be struggling to even get back at all next year."
With his playing future in jeopardy, the chance for Griffin's talents to otherwise be utilised in a coaching position will be welcomed by Newcastle, who need to bolster their defence moving into 2019.
“Slade will do the ruck defence and wrestle and do his rehab and see how everything goes and see how it all works out,” Brown said of Griffin's future playing career.
“When Slade was at the Storm, they considered him their best ruck defender and technically, their best wrestler and he was very clearly our best by a country mile so there is a potential lifeline there for him.
“The key for us is we want him to teach a few other guys how to do it effectively because it’s obviously an area where we have to get more proficient.
“I think everyone would agree if we are to take ourselves to a new level next season, we have to be a whole lot better defensively and clearly, it needs to be a real focus for us in the pre-season.”
Newcastle have leaked 2055 points during Brown's three year stint as head coach, more than double the amount the Storm have lost in the same period. They ranked as the second worst defensive side in 2018 with 607 points, but their 11th-placed finish this year marks an all-round improvement over their 2017 wooden spoon effort.