Rugby league great Phil Gould says Newcastle’s playing group needs “to take responsibility” for their performances rather than coach Adam O’Brien, who has come under the firing line in recent weeks.
Despite starting the 2022 season with consecutive wins, Newcastle has dropped its past six games and has failed to score a try in its previous two defeats at the hands of Parramatta and Melbourne.
Making matters worse for the club, a host of top-17 players including the likes of Jayden Brailey, Dane Gagai, Kurt Mann and Lachlan Fitzgibbon are out through injury.
While Newcastle may have its fair share of reasons for those string of defeats, former Cronulla captain Paul Gallen said it means little to fans and sponsors.
“Fans, sponsors and people going to the game don’t care… they turn up, pay their money to see their team perform and do the best they can,” Gallen told Nine’s 100% Footy.
“I think there will be pressure on the coach. Whether it’s fair or not, I know It’s not fair… the fact is, sponsors, people turn up and pay their money. They don’t care, they want to see the team perform.”
Responding to Gallen’s comments, Gould made it known that O’Brien should be the last person taking on the bulk of the criticism.
Gould highlighted a moment at the beginning of Newcastle’s 48-point loss to Melbourne on Sunday where the Knights kicked the ball out on the full with the opening kick-off.
“The Newcastle Knights start off, on a bright sunny day, with the kick-off, they kick it out on the full,” Gould said. “What part did the coach play in that?”
“You can look at all the incidents during the course of the game that have absolutely nothing to do with coaching, but the execution, the ability and the confidence of the people out there playing.
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“They’re the ones that have to do it. I’ve seen coaches wear themselves out trying to find the path that produces the try or the play that gets them in the open spaces, and the coaches are trying to solve all the problems that are really the problems of the players.
“It’s the players that need to take responsibility.
“What you try to say is the coach can only take it so far, these are your responsibilities.
“He can’t find the gaps, he can’t find the pass, he can’t kick the ball, he can’t back up, he can’t get up when he’s hurt, you’ve got provide all those things.
“A lot of the coaches really know the game and they’re really good. Unfortunately, players will hide behind that in their performance.”
Gould mentioned the high-flying Melbourne Storm, who he says can play freely without the pressure of relying on the coach to find a solution.
“Finding them the confidence and ability, the communication and the system where they can bring themselves to light, and soon I say that, who do you think of? The Storm,” he said.
“Two great hookers, two great halves… They’re out there playing themselves.
“They don’t need coaching. It gets to a system where they’re out there and playing in the moment.
“Unfortunately, these other teams are wearing their coaches out because the coach feels it’s his responsibility to find the solution.
“It’s not, you coach them to a point, you give them a repertoire to a point, and then it’s their responsibility. It’s their career.”