Coach's Box: Pressure now off Stone
Judging from media reports, the Knights players and Newcastle community in general are filled with excitement over the news that Wayne Bennett's will be head coach at the club for four years from 2012.
And understandably so. If Wayne Bennett is not already considered the Australian equivalent of the world-renowned American football coach Vince Lombardi, then he should be.
Bennett, along with the late Jack Gibson, are rugby league's best coaches ever and, while they're not "twins", they have a lot of similarities. And they are as close to Lombardi as anyone.
But where does this leave current Knights coach Rick Stone?
He would be experiencing some mixed emotions right now, following the announcement that he has lost his job as head coach next season to Wayne Bennett but can stay on as his assistant.
Every coach who has found themselves in this position in recent times, like Nathan Brown when Bennett went to the Dragons and Anthony Griffin who was second choice to stay at the Broncos, to their credit have said something along the lines of, "If I have to step aside for Wayne Bennett, so be it". Rick Stone said something similar this week.
It's an interesting one. You can only enhance your coaching under Wayne Bennett, being an understudy to one of the best coaches in the world. But Stone has already done a full apprenticeship, with the Burleigh Bears in the Queensland Cup and as Knights assistant coach from 2006-2009.
You are that excited when you get your first-grade job, like a young player getting his break into first grade. But to have it taken away when all you want to do is coach first-grade is tough.
The good thing for Rick Stone though is that Wayne Bennett wants him to stay on and if he adopts a positive attitude about it for the rest of this season, it is actually a great spot to be in.
Why? Because no matter where the Knights finish, the pressure is off. If they finish out of the eight and don't perform, it doesn't matter. He still has a job next year as understudy to one of the best coaches in the world.
The flipside is that if they are really competitive and make the top four or eight, another club may look at him. So he has a job as assistant coach waiting for him, but he might have another opportunity he doesn't know about yet.
Now he needs to rally his staff. When Bennett went to the Dragons he took all his staff with him. He may do the same again for Newcastle.
Stone will get a lot of value out of going to his staff and telling them that they are a team and need to make it the best they possibly can for the rest of the season; look positive, look in control, and look like they are really enjoying the job.
The players will feed off that. If the support staff put their best foot forward - who knows - they might stay there.
Stone needs to keep the players bubbling along and can afford to relax a little more. He won't need to go out of his way to be too hard on them, because at the end of the day Wayne Bennett is there next year and he will be asking Rick for his advice on certain players.
The players need to have a crack.
My tips for Round 6: Bulldogs, Tigers, Warriors, Cowboys, Roosters, Knights, Storm, Dragons.