AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 05: Head Coach Nathan Brown of the Knights talks to the media after the round one NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Newcastle Knights at Mt Smart Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Talk earlier in the week that Nathan Brown’s tenure as coach of the Newcastle Knights is under any sort of pressure came is a real shock to me.

Surely, given the circumstances at the club, and the work he and his team have put into turning the club around, mean that any such talk is purely a poor motivational tactic.

For those who aren’t up to date with their Newcastle Knight recent history, Brown inherited an absolute mess when he took over from Rick Stone prior to the 2016 season.

Yes, on paper, since Brown’s arrival, the Knights only have the three victories and look set to collect their second wooden spoon, but the situation in which Brown entered the cauldron at the Hunter suggests his three wins may even be a slight overachievement.

The playing roster that Brown was handed was not up to NRL standard. The likes of Dane Gagai and Trent Hodkinson had Origin experience, and there was plenty of talent on the roster, but overall, there were too many untested players, especially in the forwards, for the side to be consistently competitive.

Salary cap decisions made by those with little ability to make such decisions meant that the Knights hands were tied for the 2017 season. They didn’t have the funds available to offer ‘overs’ to players who would otherwise not see the Knights as a viable employment option.

Brown and co did manage to add Jamie Buhrer and Rory Kostjasyn to the roster, adding a talented and hard working back rower, as well as a new first-choice number nine. Unfortunately, both suffered injuries, with Kostjasyn missing almost the entire 2017 season.

Although 2017 hasn’t seen victories reign down upon the Hunter, the Knights have blooded the likes of Sam Stone and Luke Yates, both of whom look to have bright futures in red and blue. Brock Lamb has also played plenty of NRL and will be much improved as a result.

Now that overpaid players have been moved on, the Knights have suddenly become big players in the market, recruiting with not only 2018 in mind, but much further into the future.

Only those who have seen his exploits in the under 20s and at NRL level can really understand just how good Kalyn Ponga is. This is a kid with such talent that the Cowboys were willing to blood him at NRL level in the pressure cooker of knockout finals footy.

His two NRL starts in 2016 were in week two and week three of the finals series against the Broncos and eventual premiers the Sharks. That says a lot about a young player.

With a freakish youngster who will likely fill the fullback role for the duration of his long-term contract locked in, the Knights turned their attention to securing players with experience, landing Rooster and Maroons regular Aidan Guerra.

I honestly can’t see how Guerra cops so much social media mustard, given the ability he continues to show. His efforts in Origin One were outstanding in short minutes. He made two line breaks, and if not for a freakish try-saving tackle, would have scored Queensland’s second try for the night.

At 29 years of age, Guerra will likely have 150+ games to his name by the end of the season. He also has 10 caps for Queensland and a single cap for his country, when he represented the Kangaroos in 2014.

Joining him next season, as well as the remainder of 2017, is fellow 29-year-old Roosters Shaun Kenny-Dowall. SKD has 224 games at NRL level and over 20 caps for his nation. That’s plenty of experience, yet he still has many years of good footy ahead of him.

The club also re-signed their most popular player in Nathan Ross. He reportedly turned down a much higher offer elsewhere to remain loyal to his local club. That shows he has belief in the system, and that must be down, at least in some part, to Brown’s efforts.

Rumours suggest that the club has also signed Broncos Herman Ese’ese and Tautau Moga. If officially signed, they both present great value and have their best footy ahead of them. I also don’t expect these to be the club’s final signings.

Given the work Nathan Brown and his team have done to attract these players, surely he is given a chance to see out the important years of his plan.

Anyone who thinks Newcastle are in a worse position now than they were when Brown took over have a very difficult argument in front of them.

Yes, the wins aren’t flowing, but no coach in the NRL could take this current roster to the NRL finals. In a few years they’re going to be a dangerous side, but without the experience, the likes of Guerra and SKD will provide, and a fair bit of patience, it will all be for nought.

Forcing a coaching staff to start over again by removing Brown will set the club back even further. It’s ridiculous to suggest Brown is responsible for the current results, and it’s ridiculous to not allow him a chance to turn it around.

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