Inside information? Smith and Stone go head to head

The key to the Roosters-Knights clash could lie in the coaches’ blueprints – does Brian Smith have some decisive ‘insider’ knowledge to call on? Big League's Benjamin Everill has done the research.

When the fulltime siren sounds on the Central Coast this Saturday night, two coaches will shake hands and have a beer together – but just who will be buying?

Brian Smith and Rick Stone come face to face for the first time since Smith parted ways with the Knights to join the Roosters, a move which gave Stone his first head-coaching gig in the NRL.

Along with Trent Robinson and Rohan Smith, both of whom also moved to the tri-colours, Stone worked as an assistant to Brian from 2007-09; but now he has the chance to prove the apprentice has become the master.

“Obviously having worked with not just Smithy but his assistants as well there is certainly an understanding of how they look at the game and how they operate and it certainly adds spice to this game,” Stone tells Big League with a sense of excitement.

“I know what they like to dissect in games and the values that are important to them. So we will have some knowledge – but they tailor-make a game plan to each opposition, so we won’t know exactly.

“Actually, they know the strengths and weaknesses of our individuals so I would say it certainly gives them an advantage in terms of this little coach clash.”

Smith, a coaching veteran of more than 500 games, has been in this situation before having coached at five NRL clubs in his career, and he chooses to look at the game with a side note of fun.

“I guess I have to admit there will be some extra feeling in some ways,” Smith says. “It will be nice to catch up with some of the guys who I haven’t spoken to since I left but I have done this sort of thing too many times for it to be too big of a deal.

“It is always a bit of fun for a coach to go up against a former colleague. I have coached against a lot of guys I once coached or coached with. Browny (Nathan Brown), Sharpy (Peter Sharp), Daniel Anderson, Matty Elliott… there have been plenty.

“And of course it’s good to be the winner at the end of the match when you go shake hands and have a drink.

“These scenarios are just a part of what you have to do as a coach. It happens a lot and just like every other week you have to get your own head right to help to ensure your players are doing the same thing.”

But just what will Smith reveal to his Roosters players when it comes to the Knights? Surely three years of work with the majority of Newcastle players will give him the ability to tear their weaknesses apart…

“Sometimes you do have an insight your current players don’t. But most of the time clubs have done in-depth homework on opponents and there isn’t much they don’t already know,” Smith reveals.

“The players even do their own individual homework these days and I’m not likely to come up with much too startling.”

Having left the Knights before his contract was due to expire, Smith managed to rile a few feathers up the F3, but Stone won’t be pushing the ‘go out and prove something to him boys’ angle.

“Motivation will come down to individuals because we won’t make a lot of it as a club or coaching staff. But every individual will decide whether it goes into the motivational bank for this week,” he says.

“We are trying to win every game – and the position we are in at the moment we have to be a little more desperate than the Roosters.

“They are coming off a shorter turnaround than us but I get the feeling that won’t matter when we hit the ground on Saturday night.”

Smith isn’t concerned about the Knights players lifting for his benefit and actually thinks the prospect could be dangerous. Having seen first-hand the Roosters lift to beat the Knights the week after he announced he was going to switch clubs only to then crash and burn, he knows how much energy can be spent with emotional build-up.

“The Roosters didn’t win another game after that,” Smith observes. “I think it is fraught with danger to over-pump a particular game and work too hard at the superficial motivations.

“It can get you short-term benefit… but a long-term massive loss.”