News that Salford Red Devils owner Marwan Koukash is considering buying the Newcastle Knights doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve said for quite some time that Koukash would eventually buy into the NRL in some capacity. I don’t think the Newcastle Knights are the right team for him to buy though. Let me tell you why…
The Newcastle Knights are a bit of a strange club. While they had some success in the late 90’s and early 00’s, they have also had their struggles.
An undying belief that they can get the job done with locals at every level of the club could be seen as a strength. In reality, every club needs input from outsiders. Every club needs new ideas, new approaches to problems and a fresh outlook from time to time.
When a club gets too wrapped up in itself, it starts to go downhill.
We have seen in the past that the Newcastle Knights struggle to respond to “outsiders”. I think back to the likes of Warren Ryan, Brian Smith and even now with Wayne Bennett…they tried to bring change to the club and the club simply didn’t respond.
At the end of the day, these people were outsiders. What they tried to bring to the club was rejected. Even when these people tried to change a losing culture they ran into difficulty.
Marwan Koukash would be the ultimate outsider. He could pour all of his billion dollar fortune into the club and he still wouldn’t be accepted.
I really like Marwan Koukash. He wasn’t a Rugby League fan until a few years ago. He was convinced to buy a terrible Super League club that was about to die. It was literally a few weeks away from closing up shop.
He bought little more than a name and a logo. The Salford Reds didn’t have anything else worth any value. He took a few months to watch how the club ran, he took notes on who did what and how the club was run. Then he started making changes…
The other thing Koukash did brilliantly was that he took time to understand how Rugby League in England was run. You don’t have the type of success had does by being a dope. He sat back, took a look at how clubs around him were being run, he asked for advice from others within the game, he even worked out the political side of things. Then he got to work.
Marwan Koukash started playing the same game that other clubs had for years. The difference was, he was playing it better and with a whole lot more money.
All of a sudden Koukash found himself being attacked from those within the English game for doing what other clubs had all been doing for years themselves. The best part was, he didn’t care!
For someone that isn’t a life long fan of the sport he only took a few months to work out Brian Noble wasn’t a good coach. He was quick to realise that the players brought to his club were no good. He started selling them off to other clubs and bringing quality players in. For all the talk in England about ambition, he was vilified for doing everything he could to make the Salford Red Devils better.
The difference between the Red Devils and the Newcastle Knights is pretty simple. The Knights have a much larger supporter base and they are the biggest show in town by a long, long way.
At Salford, Koukash can do what ever he feels he needs to to turn the club around. In Newcastle he wouldn’t have that unquestioned control, no matter how much money he poured into the club.
What Marwan Koukash would be better off doing is looking to buy into an expansion club or a club where he would have complete control.
I think the Gold Coast Titans would be a better club for Koukash to buy. He could take them over tomorrow, start funding their juniors development system (Which has been badly under funded for years now), he would give the franchise a face that it’s desperately needs, he would have a team in a nice location with a great stadium…and he will attract talent to his club.
Right now Kevin Locke is playing in Salford. If you’ve been to Salford, you know what that means. Imagine what Marwan Koukash could do with all of his money and a destination like the Gold Coast to play at!
The other alternative for Koukash would be to buy into the next round of NRL expansion. Perth is getting a team the next time the competition expands but it is unlikely the WARL would want to bring anyone else into the management of the club unless the offer was too good to refuse. Koukash could bring that type of offer to the table, but I still sense that the WARL is keen to go it alone.
That would open up the opportunity for Koukash to get behind an expansion club pretty much anywhere else that the NRL would like to get a foothold in. A second Brisbane team perhaps? What about Adelaide? Could he bring a second NRL team to New Zealand? Anything is possible.
The one thing that needs to be remembered about Marwan Koukash is that he is a winner. When he commits to something, he goes all in. I have seen him do things with his Super League club that have blown away opposition clubs. He has all the money he needs to do what he likes, he has the desire to turn around the worst of clubs and make them a winner, he is very successful at everything he does, and given enough time he will be successful in Rugby League as well.
I think the NRL should have a formal meeting with Koukash and talk about his future within the game. He knows Super League is fun, but he also knows that the NRL is where the big boys play the game. He wants in, and I’m here to tell you that he already knows who he would want running and coaching any club he bought into.
I often think that when the RFL convinced Marwan Koukash to buy the Salford Reds, they had no idea what they were letting themselves in for. This is a guy that thinks so far beyond anything the RFL could even imagine. If he ended up owning an NRL club, that club would be a success. Having said that, I want to see him buy the right club, find himself in the right situation, be answerable to no one but himself, and build a winning team without having to worry about upsetting the fan base or a bunch of former players who don’t like seeing their mates lose their jobs.
Marwan Koukash should not buy the Newcastle Knights. The NRL club he does end up owning one day will be one of the best clubs to play for in the game. I guarantee that!
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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