Darius Boyd is tipped to follow Wayne Bennett to Brisbane next season but Joey Leilua has told Newcastle officials he does not intend to invoke a get-out clause in his contract if the seven-time premiership-winning coach leaves.
Bennett has also given assurances that he will see out the NRL season with the Knights, despite calls for the 64-year-old to sever ties immediately so the club can start planning for life without him.
As revealed by Fairfax Media on Monday, Broncos coach Anthony Griffin was advised he would not serve the remaining year of his contract on Sunday after a phone conversation between Bennett and News Corporation boss Lachlan Murdoch sealed his return to the club he previously coached for 21 years.
On the move: Darius Boyd was unforthcoming on Monday but will follow Bennett to Brisbane. Photo: Jonathan Keeble
Brisbane players were summoned to an 11am meeting where Griffin told them: "I got the arse".
There had been speculation Griffin told Broncos chief executive Paul White on Sunday that he would quit immediately, but the pair addressed a news conference at 2.30pm to declare it was business as usual for the rest of the season.
Bennett also said he was committed to the Knights for the remainder of the season, and did not want to leave them in bad shape. He said he had been involved in Newcastle’s recruiting decisions and succession planning for next year.
Joey Leilua has told Knights he’ll stay in Newcastle. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
‘‘I will finish out the season here,’’ he said.
‘‘I stated two weeks ago when I announced that I’d be leaving the Knights, my commitment then was that I would be staying until the end of the football season as coach and nothing has changed, and nothing will change.
‘‘Everybody was comfortable with that position and nothing has changed since then.’’
Bennett said it would be inappropriate for him to comment about his Broncos appointment, and that his primary focus for the next two months was ensuring the Knights finished this season playing to their potential and winning as many games as possible.
However, Fairfax Media was told a decision has already been made for Boyd to return to Brisbane with Bennett in a move that will see him vie with Anthony Milford, Ben Barba and Josh Hoffman for the fullback role next season.
The Test winger previously went with Bennett from the Broncos to the Dragons in 2009 and then to Newcastle in 2012.
Bennett is also expected to take coaching staff, headed by assistant coach Kevin Walters.
Knights high performance director Jeremy Hickmans and performance analyst Scott Barker have also worked alongside Bennett at Brisbane and St George Illawarra, as well as Newcastle.
However, Leilua is the only other player besides Boyd with a get-out clause in his contract if Bennett is not the coach and he has told Newcastle officials he plans to serve the remaining period of his deal.
Griffin, who has previously worked under Bennett at the Broncos, was philosophical about the decision of the five-man club board to sack him without any input from White.
"It’s a big bad world out there. It’s business," he said. "Obviously you are disappointed but I am philosophical about coaching. It is a tough business but it is a journey, I will continue to do my job here and then move on to the next chapter. I am a realist and I understand there are going to be decisions made about you."
Griffin, who replaced Ivan Henjak two weeks before the start of the 2011 season, had received overwhelming support from his senior players and White, but senior board members have worked behind the scenes to lure Bennett home.
Of the team's reaction, Griffin said: "There were some guys I had to give a cuddle, you know. The two team captains [Corey Parker and Justin Hodges] were very, very strong, they were very good. There might have been a couple cheering, I don't know."
He said the Broncos' Saturday night win over the Warriors at Suncorp Stadium was indicative of the club's stability and resilience, and pointed to future success.
"It just proves to everyone that there's nothing wrong with this place," he said.
"That's my main message ... there's nothing wrong with the place. It's been set up to succeed. If we were coming second-last and it was an unhappy club, I'd put my hand up, but the place is going fine, it's going to be successful. I've done my bit.
"For me personally, I’m looking forward to the next 10 weeks."
with Brett Keeble