Newcastle captain Kurt Gidley says Wayne Bennett’s leadership through a tumultuous NRL season proves he is the best man to rebuild the Knights.
Bennett is yet to decide on where he will coach next season after his future was thrown up in the air by Nathan Tinkler’s demise as owner.
The super coach says he will need to make a decision soon for the sake of the club, who may find it tough to be financially competitive as rival NRL clubs St George Illawarra and Brisbane are reportedly keen on luring Bennett back.
Newcastle players have had to deal with a difficult year, from the tragic Alex McKinnon injury to the uncertainty over their futures as the club was relinquished by Tinkler and taken over by the NRL.
As the Knights celebrated a second consecutive win with a hard-fought 16-10 victory over Parramatta on Sunday, Gidley declared his teammates would be a rabble if not for their coach.
He hopes Bennett stays on to lead the Knights into a new era.
“He’s been really important in the past three years and you probably couldn’t have had a better person as head coach just to keep everybody grounded through a really turbulent time,” Gidley said.
“Wayne will make up his own mind in good time. He’ll do it for the best interests of himself and the club and the team.”
Gidley admits the security of the past few weeks with the NRL takeover has had a direct influence on the Knights’ on-field performance.
Newcastle have shown they could post a serious threat to opposition teams on the road to the finals after dispatching North Queensland and the Eels at Parramatta Stadium.
“It was the uncertainty throughout that period where you didn’t know what was happening in the club. It’s not a positive environment for the whole club, the players, the staff.”
Parramatta’s second-straight loss puts them in a precarious position outside the eight – but prop Tim Mannah said the Eels wouldn’t panic.
One of the other underdog teams of this season – Penrith – also suffered a slip-up this weekend, losing to the resurgent Warriors 30-20 on the road.
Wests Tigers secured the club’s gutsiest win of the season, a 19-18 thriller against Canberra.
However, the victory came at a cost with James Tedesco ruled out for the season with a knee injury and centre Tim Simona sidelined for four weeks with a facial injury.
On Friday night, Manly asserted themselves as premiership favourites after getting home 24-16 against the Sydney Roosters in a fitting grand final replay.
Last-placed Cronulla came from 22-0 down to pull off the most remarkable win of the season against Brisbane, but their hard work was undone by Todd Carney’s off-field antics, which have resulted in his sacking on Sunday night.