KNIGHTS chief executive Matt Gidley accepts Jack Bird’s rationale for declining an offer to join Newcastle.
But Gidley thinks the Brisbane-bound Cronulla star will be proven wrong after he declared on Wednesday that the Knights “won't be in the top eight for the next three years”.
Speaking to NRL.com, Bird revealed the reasons that prompted him to knock back potentially the richest deal in Newcastle’s history to instead sign with the Broncos.
“I was close and leaning towards them more [than Brisbane] but they just couldn't sign anyone,” Bird said in the interview.
“The Knights’ culture and living experience I was looking forward to and the club itself, but I just felt the team where it is at the moment and that they couldn’t attract key players made me doubt things.
“I just didn’t want to go there by myself.”
Gidley said Bird made it “really clear” to Knights officials that the lack of big-name recruits was his major concern.
“Everything else, he was really comfortable with,’’ Gidley said.
“He’d been a Knights fan growing up, he could see the direction the club was heading in, but for a 22-year-old, it was a bit of a leap of faith.’’
Gidley, however, could not accept Bird’s prediction that the Knights would be waiting several years until they again feature in the play-offs.
“You want to go to a team where you think you’re going to win the competition,” Bird said.
“I didn’t want to be the only guy going there and play five-eighth with no firepower around me. They’ve got Sione [Mata’utia] and Mitch Barnett, who are leading a young team and they’re only going to get better, but won't be in the top eight for the next three years.
“They’ve got some good players but just can’t seem to attract any others.”
Gidley was confident, despite back-to-back wooden spoons, that the Knights were capable of defying Bird’s unflattering outlook.
“In terms of making the finals, we clearly disagree with what he’s said,’’ Gidley said.
“I think there’s enough examples in history that, on the back of a couple of quality signings, things can improve pretty quickly.
“If you look at South Sydney, they signed Sam Burgess and Greg Inglis [in 2010 and 2011], retained their best young players, and won a premiership in 2014.”
The Knights have signed Kalyn Ponga (North Queensland) and are poised to announce a three-year deal with Roosters lock Aidan Guerra.
Gidley said Newcastle “haven’t made any decision” about Shaun Kenny-Dowall, released this week by the Roosters and due to face cocaine-possession charges in court next week.