Rick Stone admitted yesterday his future as Newcastle Knights coach would hinge on how his team handled a nightmarish early-season schedule.
Under contract for one more year, Stone’s fate appears to be in the hands of Nathan Tinkler after Knights chairman Rob Tew revealed yesterday the club’s board of directors would defer any decision on the head coaching position until after Tinkler’s privatisation proposal had been considered by members.
If, as expected, members vote in favour of a Tinkler takeover, the self-made tycoon then faces a choice between re-signing Stone or chasing a big-name coach with more experience.
Stone, who replaced Brian Smith as coach late in the 2009 season and promptly steered Newcastle into the play-offs before they slipped to 11th last year, was relaxed yesterday about his prospects of earning an extension.
But he hoped a strong start to the season would bolster his bargaining power.
Newcastle open their campaign with six of their first eight games on the road.
They face trips to Penrith, Townsville, Brookvale, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne – all venues where they have traditionally found success elusive. Their only two home games in the first two months are against premiers St George Illawarra (round four) and Cronulla (round six).
It shapes as the fixture list from hell, yet Stone accepts his coaching career could be riding on the outcome.