Hagan backs Stone to steady Knights - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hagan backs Stone to steady Knights

By Ian McCullough 02/03/2010 04:49:48 PM Comments (0)

Former Newcastle coach Michael Hagan has thrown his support behind Knights mentor Rick Stone and backed him to get the NRL team back on track after it was engulfed in another drugs scandal.

Stone's pre-season preparations have been thrown into turmoil after key forward Chris Houston was charged with three counts of supplying ecstasy and one count of supplying cocaine on Monday.

Houston's arrest follows the bailing in December of his former flatmate Danny Wicks, who is awaiting trial for eight drug-related charges.

Wicks quit the club following his arrest, and Houston has been stood down indefinitely, leaving rookie coach Stone, who has just five NRL games under his belt, with a massive job ahead of his first full season which gets underway in less than two weeks.

Hagan, who brought Stone to the club as an assistant five years ago, said he had sympathy for his close friend, but had no doubts he is strong enough to get his players fully focused ahead of their tricky opening game of the season against Canterbury.

"I really feel for Rick, as a coach the situation is something you don't really know how to deal with and is out of your control," Hagan told AAP.

Hagan is no stranger to being thrust into the spotlight after off-the-field incidents involving his players.

He was coach of the Knights when forward Dane Tilse was sacked following a drunken rampage by 12 players in Bathurst in 2005.

And he was also at the helm at Parramatta when Jarryd Hayne was shot at in Kings Cross on the eve of the 2008 season, as well as having to deal with former Eels halfback Tim Smith's off-field problems.

"It is a really difficult thing to have to deal with and I have great empathy for coaches that have to go through it at such a critical time of the year," he said.

"It is difficult to deal with because nothing prepares you for it as a footy coach you are dealing with day to day issues: recruitment, injuries and performance, that is hard enough.

"When things come out of left field you are not geared up for it and it is stressful for not only the club, but the fans and sponsors as well."

"Rick is a very strong character, and he has been around the game for a long time and he will deal with this and cope well."

Hagan, who was named as Queensland State of Origin coach Mal Meninga's assistant last month, said the stress of dealing with non-football matters was a major factor in his decision to walk away from coaching in the NRL.

"For whatever reason we are dealing with things in the game that we would have never thought possible 10 years ago, it's a much bigger job that many people realise," he said.

"I still have great admiration for the Knights as a club and am really confident they will come through this and be stronger for it."

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