The way has been cleared for Adam O’Brien to follow the well-trodden path from Bondi to Newcastle after receiving the backing of Roosters coach Trent Robinson to take charge of the Knights next season.
With fellow Roosters assistant Craig Fitzgibbon knocking back the opportunity to replace Nathan Brown at the Knights, Newcastle officials have turned their attention to O’Brien and he has told Robinson he wants the job.
Despite O’Brien only joining the Roosters this season on a three-year deal, Robinson said he would not stand in his way and insisted the highly regarded former Melbourne coaching assistant would stay on to help the Bondi-based club’s bid to win back-to-back grand finals.
"He is obviously ambitious and wants the role and I will support him in that," Robinson said. "That’s what head coaches are there for, we are there to develop and progress and he is good enough for the job so I am sure they will be positive about it.
"He is a high-quality coach, that is why I got him up here and he has proven his credentials enough over that period of time. It is now up to Newcastle to decide that and for him to prove that."
The Knights are yet to make any official announcement regarding their next coach.
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After deciding to part company with Brown at the end of the season, the Knights want to secure a replacement quickly and the Roosters have become a recruitment ground for coaches, with Paul Green, Justin Holbrook, Jason Taylor and Steve McNamara having worked under Robinson before securing head roles elsewhere.
Fitzgibbon was Newcastle’s first choice and while the former Test back-rower believes the Knights are on the verge of success he declined their approach and plans to honour his three-year contract with the Roosters, although other offers are certain to come his way before then.
The son of foundation Illawarra Steelers coach Allan Fitzgibbon, who was a member of Balmain’s 1969 premiership-winning team, Fitzgibbon played 10 seasons for the Roosters before joining the club’s coaching staff and may eventually become Robinson’s successor.
O’Brien spent 11 years in the Storm system before moving to the Roosters this season for the chance to learn how another successful club operates and improve his chance of landing a head-coaching role.
He is now set to receive that opportunity with the Knights and Robinson has assured him the Roosters have no issue about his impending departure.
"My dealings are only with the Roosters and obviously Adam on this, and we have been really clear," Robinson said.
"I support Adam in what he wants to do and we want high-quality coaches who are ambitious, who are going to get the best out of themselves and I think you can see that.
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"Adam wants to go for the job, Fitzy doesn’t. Fitzy is on for another three years here and he is an incredible coach as well. You have the conversations all the time with those guys."
The appointment of O’Brien would continue the strong links between the Roosters and Knights, where Robinson worked as an assistant to Brian Smith after beginning his coaching career in France with Toulouse.
Former CEO Brian Canavan is now Newcastle’s GM of Football, while Mitchell Pearce, Connor Watson, Shaun Kenny-Dowell and Aidan Guerra joined the Knights from the Roosters.
"Our thing here is to create the best environment possible for the people that play here and the people who work here, and we fight for that each week - we don’t rely on it," Robinson said.
"We make sure that we invest in it a lot and I guess it is interesting for people from the outside … but the goal for us is to create the best possible club that we can."
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O’Brien is in charge of the Roosters' attack and the premiers have scored 561 points this season – the most in the Telstra Premiership, with Melbourne (547) the only other team to exceed more than 500 points.
Having become accustomed to assistants leaving to take up head-coaching roles elsewhere, Robinson wants O’Brien to stay and said he would remain committed to the Roosters until the end of their premiership campaign.
"It’s normal and it has been probably normal here for quite a few years," Robinson said. "We are tight and that will continue, and you understand that people have motivations and different life experiences that they want to do but when you call them on what they want to do at this time and focus on what we are about to do, that is all you can ask.
"We are on a path, we went about a path at the start of the year and no one is going to change our vision this year and what we want to do. Our vision is clear, I am clear about what we want, we are all clear about our future and what we are striving for so no one is going to put that in jeopardy."