NRL: Wests purchase sets Knights up for success

MOVING FORWARD: Knights coach Nathan Brown says the takeover by the Knights will help the club recruit top-end players. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
MOVING FORWARD: Knights coach Nathan Brown says the takeover by the Knights will help the club recruit top-end players. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

CHAIRMAN Brian McGuigan labelled the takeover of the Newcastle Knights by the Wests Group as a “turning point” and declared the club was now in “the best possible hands”.

Chief Executive Matt Gidley described it as a “brilliant outcome” and a catalyst for “better times ahead”.

Coach Nathan Brown believed the Knights were now positioned to “build a football club that the town can be proud of”.

Wests will assume outright ownership of the NRL battlers on November 1 after their takeover proposal was overwhelmingly endorsed by the club’s members in a plebiscite.

They will enter into an interim partnership with the NRL, which has owned Newcastle’s franchise since the demise of Nathan Tinkler three years ago, until the end of the season.

The marriage with Wests brings an end to an 18-month search by the NRL, in conjunction with the Knights board, for a suitable owner.

“We needed someone who has great loyalty to the Hunter, loyalty to the code and also with the financial and management capability to run the knights constructively for the future,” McGuigan said.

“We think it is the turning point for the Knights. If anyone can do it, Wests can do it. Wests are a tremendous organisation. 

“The chairman of Wests Owen Kilpatrick and chief executive Phil Gardner are great businessmen. I applaud them for their confidence in the Knights and their loyalty to Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.”

McGuigan said he and fellow board members John Quayle, Katie Brasil, Eileen Doyle, Mark Fitzgibbon and Peter Shear would stand down in the “coming weeks”.

“We were brought in to stabilise the finances and stabilise the performance of the guys on and off the field,” McGuigan said. “That is what we have done, and we have done it in a responsible way.”

A new board structure will be revealed in the months ahead, and the incoming directors will be elected by Wests, pending NRL approval. 

Asked if he would like to continue his association with the club, McGuigan said: “If Phil Gardner needs me to to do anything, I have already offered to help in whatever ways he wants me to. It is not as if we are drawing a curtain on it. We came into the club because we had faith in it.”

Gidley, who has has been CEO since he was appointed by Nathan Tinkler in 2011, said Wests takeover was a “brilliant outcome for the club”.

“There is no doubt they can help improve our organisation.” he said. “We are fortunate that Wests have been a long-term supporter of the club. They understand the club and our business very well.”

Gidley said he would continue in his current role during a transitional period but was unsure about his long-term future.

“We will have those discussions in the coming months,” he said. “We have to be realistic. With any mergers or acquisition, there is always change. There is no doubt Wests will be looking to do that. It will all be in the best interest of the club, which is the most important thing. Being completely honest, I haven’t put any great thought to it. All our energies have been in getting this across the line. Now we can start to think what the future holds for everyone.”