Smith heads to Knights, tempted by Johns - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Smith heads to Knights, tempted by Johns

By Steve Jancetic 08/03/2006 07:29:26 PM Comments (0)

Parramatta coach Brian Smith cited the opportunity to work with superstar halfback Andrew Johns as one of the driving forces behind his decision to accept a three-year offer to coach NRL rivals Newcastle from next season.

Smith confirmed on Wednesday one of rugby league's worst kept secrets with the announcement that he would be heading to Newcastle in 2007 after ten years at Parramatta, completing a bizarre coaching swap with Knights counterpart Michael Hagan who will take charge of the Eels from next season.

Smith also revealed he had always intended seeking a fresh challenge once his contract with the Eels expired at the end of 2006, but said he was disappointed with the way the Parramatta board went public with its intention not to offer him a new contract.

The veteran coach, the third most experienced in NRL history behind Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens and Brisbane's Wayne Bennett with 448 games, spoke with enthusiasm about the prospect of teaming up with Johns next season and at the same time dismissing claims the two of them did not get along.

"The idea of being at the Knights with possibly the world's best player, maybe the best player of all time as a captain and halfback, there ain't a coach alive who doesn't want to be behind the desk at that club," Smith said.

"(To be) the coach of the Newcastle Knights is a dream for any coach I'd think.

"As I understand it, he's happy about me coming and you ain't going to stand here long enough and listen to me carry on about how happy I am to be going there."

The announcement completed a frantic month of negotiations for the Knights, who missed out on their first two coaching targets in Sheens and Canberra's Matt Elliott, who subsequently signed with Penrith for 2007.

Smith said he was surprised it took as long as it did for the Knights to come after him.

"They contacted me last week. To be honest I asked them what took them so long," he said.

"I've been sitting there waiting for their call."

Knights chief executive Ken Conway said Smith was always under consideration by the Newcastle board, and dismissed concerns that his inability to win a grand final had counted against him.

"We were probably a little ... intimidated by the swapping coaches scenario," Conway said.

"If you go back and you have a look, the grand finals he got into with St George ... (they) were performing well above the standard of the players that he had.

"There are a lot of coaches out there who've never won a premiership but he has at least proved he can consistently get teams up to the standard of getting them to grand finals."

Smith admitted he knew a while back that his time with the Eels was coming to an end.

"(Parramatta chief executive Dennis Fitzgerald) told me a long time ago that that was his plan, so it wasn't a great shock," Smith said.

"It was a disappointment. I'm sad about leaving.

"To be honest if it had been left to me I would have resigned on the 31st of October when my contract was up, I'd made up my mind that ten years was a fair time for me to be there and I was ready to move on. Dennis saved me the trouble."

Despite the excitement of his impending move, Smith said he remained fully focused on his final campaign with the Eels.

"There's a chance for Parramatta this year, if we can all play and work at our highest level and get a bit of luck, we can win the competition.

"That's a real possibility."

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