THE NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS have appointed Rick Stone as the NRL club’s head coach for the next two years.
Stone will take over from Wayne Bennet at the end of the season, following Bennett’s decision to join the Brisbane Broncos in 2015.
Stone had been strongly tipped to replace Bennett, who last month signed a three-year deal with the Broncos.
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“Rick has a thorough knowledge of our club and the community, which are qualities we felt important in the head coach position,” Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said in a statement on Monday.
“We look forward to Rick continuing to focus his energies on our current NRL team, and also our NSW Cup team as they move towards the finals later in the year.”
Stone joined the club in 2006, originally as an assistant to Michael Hagan and then Brian Smith.
He took over the top in 2009 when Smith left, before returning to assistant in 2012 under Bennett.
“It’s great to get another chance to coach the Knights because its not often you get a second opportunity to coach at the same club,” the 47-year-old said.
“We have some exciting times ahead with some great young juniors coming through this year and some more talent not too far away from playing NRL.”
The current assistant thanked former owner Nathan Tinkler, Hunter Sports Group boss Troy Palmer and Bennett for allowing him to stay at the club the past few seasons.
“I have learnt a lot over the last three years and know it puts me in a good position to take the Knights forward,” he said.
“Thanks for the support from Matt Gidley and Paul Harragon and more recently, John Quayle.
“I’ve also had great support from the current playing group and the people of Newcastle.”