Auckland: As Nathan Brown prepares for his NRL return for the first time since 2009, a much more self-assured coach is not looking to fix Newcastle's woes in the short-term.
While Brown wants immediate success, he realises the challenge of taking charge of the wooden spooners. Time is generally not afforded to NRL coaches but Brown said patience was key to the Knights returning to the finals for the first time since 2013.
"The key for us, from the staff point of view, is putting together a side over a period of time," Brown said ahead of this weekend's Auckland Nines.. "Whatever happens, happens. I'm not going to go and make short-term decisions. It's not what Newcastle needs.
"Newcastle needs a team that over a period of time will evolve and get better and better. We could sign two or three blokes who are 30 and improve in the short term but that's not going to help us in the long term.
"Putting band-aids on and helping the results and winning an extra three games a year here and a year there is not going to get the team back to where it is going to get to.
"The team needs a plan of bringing in younger kids and working out which ones are good enough, which we can only work out when they play."
Brown has travelled a well-documented path since being replaced at St George Illawarra by Wayne Bennett. A stint in England culminated in a title at St Helens in 2014 before returning to Australia last year to work with the Melbourne Storm and the NSW Origin team. He signed a three-year deal with the Knights.
Brown has reunited with former Dragons teammates Mick Potter and Craig Smith on the Newcastle coaching staff alongside Knights great Danny Buderus. Brown said he had a "much clearer picture" on the path he wants to head.
"You don't get things right all the time but you're a chance of getting it right much more frequently with experience," Brown said. "I'm not sure if people change that drastically but as you get older you would like to think you get a little bit wiser and smarter.
"You've got to get some things wrong in life as long as you learn from it."
With veterans including Kurt Gidley, Beau Scott, Clint Newtown, David Fa'alogo and Chris Houston moving on last season, the Knights have a void in the senior player ranks. Gidley will need to be replaced as captain as Brown toys with the idea of appointing co-captains. Jeremy Smith, Tariq Sims and Trent Hodkinson are among the candidates.
"I'm still not 100 per cent sure if we need one captain or a number of captains and see how that evolves until the best one sticks their head out," Brown said. "We have some good candidates.
"We've lost a lot of older players, which is probably a good thing with where the club is at, so we can open the space up for some of the good young kids and the middle-aged players will come out of their shell a bit more when the older people go.
"We don't want to put someone in there and think we've got it wrong and have to change it. It'll evolve over the next month."
Meanwhile, since his stint in England, Brown has seen a dramatic shift in late-season player movements. While the Knights have little room to move in the salary cap for this season, they benefited from the arrival of Pauli Pauli last month.
"Sports science has grown and the salary cap is very different," Brown said. "Some clubs quite clearly spend more money than other clubs. Although it's all above board, the cap is manufactured in a way to keep the bigger players in the game.
"Players move a lot more now, which is probably caused by clubs not being patient with coaches. As soon as a new coach comes in he just wants to get rid of X,Y and Z straight away. If he doesn't do it he will lose his job. There is not much loyalty either way now because of such a huge turnover of coaches."