Cameron Ciraldo’s call to Adam O’Brien in NRL coaching massacre
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Cameron Ciraldo’s call to Adam O’Brien in NRL coaching massacre

Newcastle Knights coach Adam O’Brien says highly regarded Panthers assistant Cameron Ciraldo called him on Wednesday morning to reassure him he was not looking for his job.

Cameron Ciraldo's call to Adam O'Brien in NRL coaching massacre

Ciraldo’s call came after Nathan Brown and Michael Maguire said goodbye to their respective clubs on Tuesday, sparking speculation that O’Brien could be the next coach to be ousted.

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O’Brien’s Knights have been hit by injuries but are performing below expectations for the season and were bottom of the ladder earlier this year.

Ciraldo is gearing up to be linked to the three coaching jobs to be released next season, and his name has already been put forward as an option at Newcastle if O’Brien fails to turn things around.

But Ciraldo is not interested in a transfer to the Knights, according to O’Brien, who said the Panthers assistant called him on Wednesday morning after speculation of a link with the club.

“Cameron was the guy he is and was the first to call and laugh,” O’Brien said.

“There is no truth in ‘Ciro’ (coming to Newcastle).”

Camera IconCameron Ciraldo will likely be the next man to transition from assistant to head coach. Credit: Included

Ciraldo played nearly half of his 94 first-class games for the Knights, and O’Brien said he had previously tried to lure him back to the club.

“He really likes the place. I almost had him come in as an assistant a few years ago, and he was all in,” O’Brien said.

“He’s a good man ‘Ciro’; I have a good relationship with him, and we talk a lot. He was the first to call me this morning.”

The Knights made it to the finals in the first two years of O’Brien’s tenure, but now that they are two out of eight games in the middle of the season, his orbit is coming under more scrutiny than in previous years.

“Our ladder position justifies some people having an opinion about that,” he said.

“Whether they are factual or not, I don’t really care to be honest. I just want to prepare the team to get a result over the weekend.

“I get it. It’s busy. That’s why this job is special, there is a lot of pressure, pressure to perform, and I get that.”

O’Brien said he felt sorry for Brown and Maguire after their resignation on Tuesday.

“They are wonderful men, and they have families. I don’t wish (dismissed) anyone,” he said.

“As for the pressure, do I feel it? Look, I know it’s there. This wouldn’t be such a fun job if it wasn’t there.”

Game one of the State of Origin series kicks off Wednesday night, and Knights Kalyn Ponga and Dane Gagai are among those set to appear.

O’Brien said he was yet to determine whether the pair would retire from state duties but said the knights’ form would not influence his decision.

“We’ll just see how they are, how they present, how they perform in those games,” he said.

“I will not sacrifice a player, given where we are on the ladder. That will not be a factor. If the guys are good to go, they are good to go.”

O’Brien said Tex Hoy and Simi Sasagi would likely fill in for Ponga and Gagai, respectively, if they had to rest before the Knights’ game against the Penrith Panthers on Sunday.