"Private ownership appeals to me'': Bennett. Photo: Peter Stoop
Knights coach Wayne Bennett believed it would take ''four or five years'' to transform the club into an NRL superpower but he was noncommittal about whether he would stay in Newcastle to lead that rebuilding process.
Speaking on Thursday night after a marathon meeting with former NSW and Australian Rugby League chief executive John Quayle, Knights chief executive Matt Gidley and two NRL representatives, Bennett was bullish about the club's prospects but remained undecided about his own future.
Bennett initially signed a four-year contract with former owner Nathan Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group to coach the Knights from 2012 until the end of 2015, saying at the time that he was struck by Tinkler's passion and ''private ownership appeals to me''.
But he confirmed on Thursday night that the final year of that deal has been nullified since the NRL officially took the ownership reins from Tinkler two weeks ago. Revised deals meant Bennett and his support staff were now contracted only until the end of October.
''We had a four-hour meeting today – Matt and myself, John Quayle, and two ARL/NRL people, and it was very beneficial, but we didn't really make any final decisions about myself. We're going to do that another day,'' Bennett said after the meeting in Newcastle.
''We just talked about the new structure going forward, what it should look like, and they told us they'd be appointing a board through a process, and we've all got our jobs until the end of October, and after that, who knows?
''I'm comfortable about what went on today. They've got a plan, and they want to take this club to places it probably hasn't been, but no one's talking about a quick fix.
''No one's talking about it's going to happen in 12 or 18 months.
''It’s going to take four or five years. I've got no doubt about that at all, to get it up to speed and where they want to take it, and they want to do it with a new board and a new direction – all those things that are important.''
Bennett gave no indication whether he would commit to the Knights beyond October ''but I was pleased to be part of that process today and the conversations we had, and it sounds good''.
A seven-time premiership-winning coach with the Brisbane Broncos (six) and St George Illawarra Dragons (one), Bennett acknowledged he had to declare his hand as soon as possible ''for the club's sake and my sake and everybody's''.
As for committing to a time frame, he said: ''I'm not going to say it's going to be a week or two weeks or whatever, it's just when I get certain things clear in my mind and when some of the discussions that we had there today kind of sink in a little bit.''
Constantly linked to a return to one of his former clubs, Bennett said he understood the speculation about his future but would not contribute to it.
Bennett said he told Newcastle players of his intention to meet with the NRL to try to clarify his future as soon as possible.
''I did tell them two weeks ago that I had decisions to make, and this process would be happening, so they were aware from that,'' he said.
Knights winger James McManus said he was unaffected by continuing talks aimed at establishing the club's new ownership and management structure ''but I can't speak for anyone else''.
''Obviously it would be great if Wayne stayed but I don't know what's going to happen,’’ McManus said after training on Thursday.
''It's the same with a lot of stuff this year. As players we can't do anything about it and we've just got to get on with it.
''We haven't spoken about it so it's something that Wayne and the NRL and whoever ends up taking over the club has got to sort out. It's nothing really the players can do anything about so there's no point thinking about it.
''He [Bennett] said he'd rather get things sorted out sooner rather than later but it will all happen in time, I guess.''