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From Knight vision to Warrior mentality for Brown

For nearly four seasons Nathan Brown told Knights fans to wait patiently as he built a squad that would be a competitive force.

Brown's abrupt exit at the end of 2019 left many with mixed opinions on whether his stint at the Knights was indeed a success.

With a 25.5% win rate across 94 games, including three wooden spoons, critics said results were everything, while others saw the rebuild unfolding that eventually dragged the Knights up from the bottom.  

On Friday night, Brown will face a Knights line-up featuring 10 players who the now Warriors coach helped recruit to the Hunter or brought through the junior system.

Apart from Tyson Frizell, he can lay claim to the rest of the main names in the line-up who are beginning to blossom under the watchful eye of Adam O'Brien.

Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce are examples of key players Brown helped lure to Newcastle, while the likes of David Klemmer, Connor Watson and Jayden Brailey were also recruited under his watch.

Hunt: Building combinations key to conquering Warriors

So, surely he's got some added motivation for this game?

"I've had some messages from mates we've grown up with asking if there's been anything more in it but he's been outstanding this week," Warriors assistant coach and long-time friend of Brown's, Craig Hodges, said on Thursday.

"Like all the top coaches, he hasn't made it about himself at all.

Warriors v Knights - Round 2

"He's been very switched on and professional but I'm sure deep down he's excited about it and what we're capable of as a team and what we're building towards."

The former Knights coach told NRL.com he did not want to add any extra spice to the build-up to the clash but was quick to point out where his former side's strengths lie.

"Whether I've been at the Knights or not it's very clear how clear the Knights go well when the Saf [Saifiti] boys play well with big Klem [David Klemmer]," Brown said.

"It's a big part of their game.  When you've got three blokes who are playing like that over the advantage line the opposition have got to do a reasonable job.

"Mitchell Pearce is an outstanding player and it makes the job easier for him."

O'Brien, the man who replaced Brown, wasn't buying into the coaches' battle on Thursday but has previously acknowledged the job Brown did with the Knights prior to taking over the side.

"Coaches are irrelevant because we don't play, and I'm lucky there because he was a better player than I was," O'Brien said.

Match Highlights: Knights v Bulldogs

"It hasn't been focused on or spoken about [this week]. I don't think there's such a thing as intimate knowledge anymore [either], not with technology … everyone knows each other's game."

Knights winger Hymel Hunt, who was recruited by Brown in 2019 and has since become one of the club's most consistent outside backs, shed a different light.

"I always thought he was going to stay at Newcastle," Hunt said.

Match Highlights: Warriors v Titans

"When I first came to the club he helped me a lot and gave me a lot of confidence.

"Everyone's excited especially for guys like the Saf boys and Barney [Mitchell Barnett], who started out under him.

"I'm excited and I'm sure he is as well."

Warriors forward Tohu Harris another player who is backing Brown's plans to the hilt, re-signing with the club earlier this week until the end of 2024.

"I've really enjoyed the pre-season and all the work Browny has done so far and especially with the group this year, the guys that have come in and others who have been here for a few years," he said.

"I feel like we've got a good group of guys and all the staff is great too. It's a really good feeling and hopefully we can keep building and take positive steps forward.

"I really enjoy what we're doing and the guys here so it was an easy decision in the end."

The Warriors embarrassed the Knights 36-6 in the corresponding clash at Tamworth's Scully Park last season but with heavy rain expected, many are expecting a much closer encounter.

"It won't change how we want to play," Hodges said.

"We're not looking to play too extravagant this time of the year.

"[Ball control] will be more of a challenge. The team that does that the best will probably get the result."

What will be the result in this Telstra Premiership clash?

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