Newcastle Knights prepare to go back to the Stone age

Rick Stone reckons he is a better coach now than when he last took over at Newcastle.

Stone is the frontrunner to replace Wayne Bennett, three years after stepping aside for the seven-time premiership mentor.

Stone's coaching record at the Knights is 46 per cent, a point higher than 699-game veteran Bennett's.

Knights officials, in conjunction with their transitional owners the NRL, will soon need to make a call on who takes the club into the future.

"Hopefully there's an opportunity there for myself," Stone said.

"When Wayne came it was a great opportunity for the club and myself to learn from Wayne. They may not have been successful years but I learned plenty off Wayne Bennett.

''The last few years I've been honing my skills and listening and learning from one of the very best. Hopefully I can be in a position to be a bit better than what I was when I had a go a few years ago."

Stone coached the Knights to an unlikely semi-final appearance in his final year in charge but is currently nurturing the region's upcoming talent in the NSW Cup.

Asked if he was a better coach now than when last in charge, the Fijian national coach said: "Definitely. Most coaches mature and improve as they go along.

''They soften their stance on some things and realise the game flows and changes a little bit in its application, where the trends and forces are heading. You have to be at the coalface to keep up with the changes and I've definitely been doing that. I think I'm in a better position now to have a crack."

The Knights are emerging from arguably the toughest period in their history, which included the Alex McKinnon injury and the end of the Hunter Sports Group's controversial reign.

"The relationship with the team and the town needs to be consistent. For whatever reason, the last couple of years that hasn't been as transparent as it needs to be," Stone said.

"I'm not saying anything negative about Wayne there but we've had a few difficulties over the last few years which I don't need to go in to. They feel like they need a bit more openness about their team. It's important to make sure the connection between the team and the town is solid."

The Knights will try to climb off the bottom of the ladder when they travel to Remondis Stadium to take on Cronulla on Sunday.

The story Newcastle Knights prepare to go back to the Stone age first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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