TOOHEY'S NEWS | NRL head of football Brian Canavan is poised to become director of football at the Newcastle Knights as the club welcomes back Alex McKinnon

Alex McKinnon is back at the Knights helping with recruitment.
Alex McKinnon is back at the Knights helping with recruitment.

Brian Canavan spent 18 years in senior roles at the Sydney Roosters including CEO and had a short stint at the Gold Coast Titans before being poached by the NRL to become head of football.

But another career change is on the cards with Canavan poised to be handed the new title of Director of Football at the Newcastle Knights.

The club has wasted no time in spreading the net far and wide to replace former football general manager Darren Mooney, who departed late last week.

Knights CEO Phil Gardner has been inundated with applicants chasing after the job and has already spoken to a number of people.

He was giving little away when we spoke during the week but he did reveal he was looking outside Newcastle with the job to go to someone with plenty of experience who has held a similar position at an NRL club in the past.

Brian Canavan

Brian Canavan

That put an end to speculation about the chances of a certain former Knights player who sounded out the club about the position the moment Mooney left.

Names like Peter Parr from the Cowboys, Melbourne Storm’s Frank Ponissi and newly-appointed Warriors head of recruitment Peter O’Sullivan have all been tossed up this week.

But Canavan, who had dealings with Gardner during the process that saw the NRL hand over ownership to Wests Group, is at the top of the list.

The only issue that may block his appointment is the NRL not letting him go.

Alex returns

Eighteen months after leaving his elite pathways recruitment job at the Knights to pursue other interests including public speaking, inspirational Alex McKinnon is returning on a part-time basis to assist the club’s recruitment boss Troy Pezet.

Pezet has been in charge of junior recruitment for the club but has stepped into the void created by Mooney’s departure and McKinnon has come in to assist. He’ll continue with his public speaking.

Gidley departs

Former captain Kurt Gidley has left his fulltime corporate role at the Knights to take up a position as business development manager at workforce recruitment firm Protech Group.

Gidley finished up late last month but will still be a club ambassador and involved on match days at home games.

Kurt Gidley with Mitchell Pearce.

Kurt Gidley with Mitchell Pearce.

Smart move

The Knights have certainly been ringing in the changes.

As well as an overhaul to the high performance unit and assistant coach Mick Potter departing, Ross Smart, who has worked at the Eels and the Bulldogs and more recently been involved with the light rail project in Newcastle, has been appointed the club’s chief commercial officer. He starts the new job on Monday week. 

Lino deal close

Word is the Newcastle Knights have offered Warriors five-eighth Mason Lino a two year deal after he was given permission to negotiate elsewhere despite having a year to run on his current contract.

We are hearing Knights coach Nathan Brown, who is in New Zealand this week spending time with the All Blacks, has met with Lino to talk about his future and a potential move.

Mason Lino

Mason Lino

Brave Kalyn   

It is no wonder Kalyn Ponga was struggling at the back-end of the season with that ankle injury of his.

Ponga showed plenty of courage to even get on the field given his surgery on Thursday revealed he had bone spurs that needed to be cut out and a ruptured ligament that had to be sown back on the bone.

Kalyn Ponga.

Kalyn Ponga.

A Hoy there

His dad Matt was one of this city’s best pro surfers but rugby league is clearly Tex Hoy’s sport of choice.

And he is making a damn good fist of it. Young Hoy, who will be a key figure in the Knights’ Jersey Flegg grandfinal qualifier against Penrith at Leichhardt Oval tomorrow, has just re-signed with the club for the next three seasons.

Matt Hoy with son Tex in 2014.

Matt Hoy with son Tex in 2014.

Snowden joins Central

Former Newcastle Knights prop Kade Snowden has signed with Central and will be a Butcher Boy under new coach Phil Williams in 2019.

Snowden, who was forced out of the Knights because of a neck injury at the back end of the 2016, returned as a player this season in a captain coach role with Belmont South in the Newcastle and Hunter competition.

Kade Snowden

Kade Snowden

Central has also picked up Cessnock firebrand Kurt Warden and Snowden’s younger brother Rylee to bolster their pack for next season.

“I’ve coached Kade before and he is a great pick up for us just with his experience and what he will teach the young blokes,” Williams said.

Venue re-think 

As much as it’s a fantastic reward and a great buzz for the clubs and players involved on the day, how can Northern NSW Football officials continue to justify playing their Newcastle Premier League grandfinals at McDonald Jones Stadium?

Northern dropped a whopping $25,000 on the event last year but decided to have another crack, only to see it fail miserably again.

Despite having 12 months to prepare and get the promotion right, just 3777 fans turned up last Saturday, 400 less than the 2017 figure. 

Edgeworth and Broadmeadow play in front of empty seats.

Edgeworth and Broadmeadow play in front of empty seats.