Former Knights, St George Illawarra and South Sydney hooker George Ndaira is poised to become captain-coach of Kurri Kurri next season.
The 26-year-old hooker or halfback played in the Newcastle Rugby League with the Bulldogs in 2009 during the Knights’ player placement program before it was scrapped in favour of the NSW Cup team, the Central Coast Centurions.
Ndaira signed with Kurri at the start of this season but was released after receiving one last chance at playing NRL football with Wests Tigers.
Ndaira has not added to his 25 appearances in the NRL and is stuck in NSW Cup side Balmain Ryde Eastwood Tigers.
Ndaira lives in Newcastle and commutes to Sydney three to four times a week.
Returning to the Newcastle league with Kurri Kurri was an easy choice.
‘‘Ever since I was at the Knights and we got put with different clubs and I was with Kurri, I have stayed in touch with all the players and the staff,’’ Ndaira said.
‘‘I was going to play there again until I went to the Tigers.
‘‘They’ve been a real good club to me and looked after me and have been very understanding.’’
A subcommittee formed to appoint a coach to replace Todd Polglase offered Ndaira the reins on Wednesday.
That subcommittee will give their recommendation to the full Kurri board on Monday evening, who are certain to endorse Ndaira.
The appointment of a new coach has taken longer than the Bulldogs had hoped.
They had wanted club great Phil Williams but he stayed at the Knights and Coalfields rivals Cessnock beat the Bulldogs to Gold Coast utility Riley Brown, who has signed with the Goannas as a player.
The coaching job will be Ndaira’s first but the goal-kicking playmaker has long held designs on running a rugby league team.
‘‘I’ve done my certificates and it’s something I’ve been aspiring to get into after footy,’’ he said.
‘‘Now this is a pretty good opportunity to actually play and start getting my toes wet in that department.
‘‘I’ve got aspirations to go further in coaching and I just saw it as a good opportunity while I can still play at the same time.’’
Ndaira made his NRL debut at the Dragons in 2006 and had his greatest success at the Rabbitohs in 2008 when he played 14 first-grade games.
The Arncliffe Scots junior said he had no regrets pulling stumps on his NRL career.
‘‘There just comes a time,’’ Ndaira said.
‘‘I’m not 20 years old any more. I’ve played NRL and I’ve accomplished a fair bit compared to other people, so I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done there.
‘‘It’s just another chapter in my career and life and I’m ready to tackle it head-on.’’
Ndaira said he would use the relationships he had built in rugby league to attract players to Kurri as well as a quality assistant coach.
The Lebanese international said he hoped to take advantage of the experience of Polglase.
‘‘I’m definitely going to keep him involved and be into his ear, because he’s been there a few years and everyone respects him around the club,’’ Ndaira said.
‘‘He’ll be my sounding board and help me at the start.’’