Newcastle chief executive Matt Gidley has moved to allay fears that coach Wayne Bennett and embattled owner Nathan Tinkler will not be at the club next season.
Speculation was rife that Bennett could be tempted to walk away two years into his four-year deal with Newcastle to join former club Brisbane or North Queensland.
Despite the Cowboys speaking to coaching candidates in the past week – including Kevin Walters, Paul Green and Broncos assistant coach Kristian Woolf – Bennett was again being linked yesterday to a possible move to Townsville.
Son-in-law Ben Ikin is on the North Queensland board and Bennett had agreed, in 2011, to join the club but its directors could not agree and he joined the Knights.
Broncos coach Anthony Griffin is contracted until the end of 2015 but is under enormous pressure to retain his job after his side failed to finish in the top eight.
‘‘I’ve spoken to him about that – he’s not going anywhere,’’ Gidley said.
‘‘We’ve put a lot of work in to get some of these players here.
’’We bought players who want to play under Wayne and play for Wayne and improve on his watch. He’s not going to let these guys down. Wayne is extremely loyal.
‘‘I don’t laugh at [the speculation] or buy into it. Whenever there’s instability at the Broncos, Wayne’s name will be mentioned as a possible solution.
‘‘He built the place there and had wonderful success there. I understand that but I think he’s excited about what we’re trying to do here.’’
Bennett shut down his public appearances since last Saturday’s shock semi-final win over defending premiers Melbourne, which set up a grand-final qualifier against the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium this Saturday. He is expected to address the media today.
In a firm indication the Knights didn’t expect to be playing football at this time of year, the 63-year-old was supposed to launch the autobiography of former Broncos protege Wendell Sailor in Sydney this morning but cancelled because of a training session.
He previously denied he would be aborting his four-year contract.
Gidley also scoffed at reports that Bennet would receive a $1million bonus for winning the grand final and that it would inflict serious financial pain on Tinkler, whose debt-fuelled empire has been in decline since he lured the master coach from the Dragons.
“I laughed at that one,” he said.
“I thought I should go and look at my contract and see what sort of bonuses I’ve got in there. It’s laughable, that one. I don’t think anyone is looking at bonuses right now.”
Tinker’s financial security left ardent Knights fans fearing what the future might hold for their club on the eve of its greatest achievement since the mining magnate took control.
Last week, the 37-year-old dropped off the BRW Young Rich List with his personal wealth falling below the cut-off mark of $18million.
Asked if Singapore-based Tinkler would remain at the club long-term, Gidley said: “Absolutely. He’s firmly committed to the club.
‘‘He loves what it does for the city. He plans to be at the game. We talk regularly, he’s still a huge supporter of our club, and I’m glad that he can enjoy these moments. He’s copped a lot of flak and undeservedly.’’