Newcastle Knights mutiny brewing as coach and players clash

·Contributor
·3-min read
Newcastle Knights player David Klemmer catches his breath during an NRL match.
The Newcastle Knights are mired in a mediocre season, culminating in the club standing down David Klemmer over his on-field behaviour. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Newcastle used to be the toughest road trip in the NRL.

Even on the rare occasion they didn’t hose down the visitors' dressing-room just to make things even more unpalatable, away teams knew they were in for 80 minutes of extreme discomfort, pain and abuse – and that was just on the field.

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Off the field, the old Marathon Stadium was a seething pit of hostility.

They were an old school footy town full of people who worked hard, played hard and drank hard.

Chief Harragon, Ben Kennedy, Marc Glanville, Tony Butterfield, Adam Muir, Steve Simpson, Billy Peden, Mad Dog McDougall….just their names alone intimidated teams who were lacking in the mental strength department.

While that lot was tending to the bruising, the Johns brothers, when they weren't blueing with each other, would handle the football side of things, ensuring more times than not the visiting team left town without the two points but happy to be alive.

An old NRL coach couldn't believe his luck one year when his team followed the Knights in the draw.

"They'd limp into the next game all bashed up and with players missing. Not many teams backed up well after playing against the Knights," he said.

Much like the town itself, the Newcastle Knights have undergone a personality change.

The on-field intimidation is long gone, crowds no longer bay for a pint of the opposition's blood and local kids don’t dream of pulling on the jersey like they once did.

Adam O'Brien's Newcastle Knights tenure at risk of collapse

And after a reasonable start to his tenure at the Knights – back-to-back top eight appearances - coach Adam O'Brien is confronting a full-blown mutiny as he surveys a trainwreck of a season.

David Klemmer, who should be one of the team leaders, has likely played his last game after an act of subordinance that told us a lot about where the Knights are at as a club.

Told to come off the field against the Bulldogs, Klemmer refused and instead put on a stink with the trainer instructed to carry out O'Brien's orders.

It showed a total lack of support for the coach, resentment that has been brewing for some time if you believe the word of those close to the coalface in Newcastle.

O'Brien's abrasive personality has worn thin on a number of players and turning up to work has become a chore.

His "egomaniac" press conference after the Dogs defeat lost him further ground and the end of the season can’t come soon enough.

O'Brien has two years to run on his deal but won’t see it out unless he can bridge the massive divide with the playing group.

It may already be beyond repair.

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