NEWCASTLE Knights are set to officially announced the appointment of Sydney Roosters assistant Adam O'Brien, a former Group Seven player, as the club's new coach for next season following news Nathan Brown will immediately depart the club.
Just 24 hours after CEO Phil Gardner declared Brown would see out the final two games this year despite offering to walk away from the job on Monday, the club has done an about face with assistant coach Kristian Woolf to take over in an interim capacity until the end of the season.
In a release, the Knights stated: "This decision has been made in conjunction with Brown in the best interests of the club."
Knights chief executive Phil Gardner told media on Tuesday afternoon that he and Brown discussed the matter on Monday, including suggesting Woolf take over as interim coach, before Gardner took it to the board and the decision was made to move Brown on early.
The chief executive said the result on the weekend fell short of expectations.
"[Nathan Brown] thought and I thought that the players and the team would galvanise and we would have a fantastic run into the finals," Gardner said.
"Unfortunately that has not happened."
"There's not a player in this group that doesn't like Nathan Brown. Nathan is one of the nicest human beings that I have met."
"I hope we get a hell of a lot better reaction this week, and I think we will."
Asked why the team had failed to step up in their first chance to farewell Brown, Gardner was unequivocal.
"I think if any of us know that, that would be the new head coach," he said.
It's understood the multi-year deal for O'Brien, a former Batemans Bay Tiger, has been finalised and only has to be signed off by the Wests board, which could come as early as Tuesday.
Gardner remained coy on that role. He said the club wanted to talk to other coaches as well as O'Brien, who he described as "exceptional".
"Like everything else in life, though, you've got to negotiate an acceptable outcome for the coach and for the club."
"We would like to make a decision as quickly as possible given where some of those candidates sit."
"This is such an important decision for us and for the town, we want to make sure we get it right."
The Brown decision came amid a barrage of criticism for how the Knights have handled the coaching drama.
Gardner conceded the club likely could have handled the situation better, but said that he and the broader organisation would review what had transpired.
"I think in anything you do in life, you can handle it better," he said.
"I think it was a fairly unique set of circumstances."
O'Brien's impending appointment will make him the third Group Seven product to be a head coach of a NRL side in 2020, joining former Bay Tiger Brad Arthur (Parramatta) and Milton-Ulladulla premiership player Justin Holbrook (Gold Coast).