NEW Gold Coast Titans coach Garth Brennan admits that getting sacked by his home-town club six years ago was “the best thing that ever happened to me”.
Brennan, the 45-year-old born-and-bred Novocastrian, was shattered in 2011 when informed he would not be retained by the Knights, despite steering their under-20s into the play-offs.
Incoming head coach Wayne Bennett had insisted on a cleanout of staff and Brennan was among the casualties.
He pondered walking away from rugby league before Penrith general manager of football Phil Gould called, offering him the reins of the Panthers’ National Youth Competition squad.
After winning an NYC title and two NSW Cup grand finals with the Panthers, Brennan was appointed on Thursday as Gold Coast’s coach for the next three years.
In hindsight, he said the opportunity may never have arisen if Newcastle had not shown him the door.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Brennan told the Newcastle Herald.
“It’s funny, I was bitter there for a while about having to leave my home town and the club I’d been coaching at for eight years. It was all I knew.
“I probably spent a bit of time with the attitude of ‘poor me’. But it was my wife Rachel who pointed out that I needed to get over it and that the opportunity Penrith offered me was a good thing.
“I had a lot of success at Penrith, and I’m very grateful for what I learned in my time there.
“I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t left the Knights. I guess things happen for a reason.”
Brennan’s wife and their three children have continued to live at Stockton while he commuted several times a week to the foot of the Blue Mountains.
He said he “borrowed” a Holden Commodore from his brother, car dealer Shane Brennan, six years ago and it had since racked up 500,000 kilometres.
“He can have it back now, but I don’t think he’ll want it,’’ he said with a laugh.
Brennan said it was “surreal” to have reached his lifetime goal of becoming a head coach in the NRL.
“There have definitely been times when I thought it would never happen,” he said. “I’ve just kept working hard and hoping eventually I would get an opportunity. I’ve been lucky, too. A month ago, I was interviewed for the job at Warrington, which they gave to Steve Price. I might have been going over there if things had worked out differently.”
The former Lambton High School student said, unlike Penrith, he would be moving his family to the Gold Coast, where he has spent the past 17 Octobers on holiday.
“But Newcastle will always be home for us,” he said. “The house we built at Stockton, we’ll be keeping that.”
Brennan saw a lot of similarities between the Titans and the Knights.
“It’s a club that I’m really excited about,” he said.
“It’s a one-team, one-town situation, like Newcastle.
"They probably aren’t flush with funds, as has been the case with the Knights at various times.
"It’s all about developing your own and building from within, and that’s what gives you sustained, long-term success.
"There’s not many clubs that can go out and just recruit a whole team each year. There’s 6000 juniors up here on the Gold Coast and I’d like to think if we can provide the pathway, they can help this club become a powerhouse.”
While development will be a key focus, Brennan felt the Titans already had a roster capable of challenging for the play-offs next year, after finishing second-last in 2017.
He was hopeful that having had an unofficial “mentoring” relationship with Ashley Taylor for the past 18 months would enable him to re-sign the emerging halfback.
“I’ve spoken with Ash,” Brennan said. “I know Ash well and I’m fairly confident that a deal with the Gold Coast Titans will be imminent.”