Wayne Bennett doesn't believe he's leaving Newcastle stranded by walking away from the embattled club, even though the Knights and the NRL were desperate to see him stay.
While Bennett will have no problem finding employment for 2015 - with St George Illawarra the favourites - his departure has significantly rocked the Knights' rebuilding plans in the wake of Nathan Tinkler's ownership collapse.
The club had slowly started to get back on track in recent weeks after its administration had been taken over by the NRL but, in many ways, the Knights will have to go back to square one given the enormous pulling power Bennett has for big-name players, sponsors and fans.
Kangaroos and Queensland marquee Darius Boyd has a famously close relationship with Bennett and the club's chances of retaining his services appear to have taken a significant hit.
Bennett said he was "embarrassed" by his poor record at Newcastle since joining the club with lofty expectations of premiership success in 2012.
"The NRL and those that are running the club at the moment were keen for me to stay but I've been here three years and I don't think our performances, particularly this year, have been satisfactory," Bennett said at a media conference.
"I'm most disappointed with what we've done and it gives someone else an opportunity to come and see what they can do.
"The overall performance was the catalyst for me. I'm extremely disappointed. I'm embarrassed by it.
"No, I don't feel that (I'm walking away from unfinished business). I've done as good a job as I can do."
Knights captain Kurt Gidley had expressed how important it was for Bennett to stay, given the role he'd played in holding the team together amid the Alex McKinnon tragedy and Tinkler's drawn-out demise.
NRL chief executive David Smith tried hard to convince Bennett to remain at his post, but is confident the club will prosper without the eight-time premiership winner.
"Very sorry to see Wayne go. Wayne's a phenomenal coach and he's been a real asset to that club ... but Newcastle will have a strong future," said Smith.
"It's got a strong financial position; we're recreating a board that we're going to reconnect back to the community. There will be a new coach that will come in. They've got some great young players and, hopefully, they'll go from strength to strength.
"This is a bit of a speed bump but it's nothing more than that."
Bennett was able to get out of his Knights deal once Tinkler's ownership of the club had ceased, and the 64-year-old has had his name linked to a long list of clubs including Brisbane, North Queensland, Gold Coast and the Warriors.
However, the Dragons, who Bennett guided to a premiership in 2010, are considered favourites, and forward Trent Merrin - while unwilling to dismiss interim coach Paul McGregor - welcomed the possibility on Thursday.
"I'd love him there," said Merrin.
"I respect him as a coach and as a friend.
"But in saying that, Paul McGregor is doing a top job there at the moment and he's got everyone's total respect."
Asked could Bennett work his magic in Wollongong a second time around, Merrin said: "That all depends on the players buying into it. (But) he's got that respect and I've got faith the boys would buy into it."
Bennett denied having spoken to the Dragons.
"I haven't spoken to anyone," he said.
"That drive is still there to coach ... I'll make another decision about where my future is."