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Knights coach Jeffries off to good start: Southwell

Jasper Bruce -

Ben Jeffries can be the man to guide Newcastle to a record-equalling third-consecutive NRLW title, star halfback Jesse Southwell says.

After inspiring the Knights from winless wooden-spooners in 2021 to back-to-back premiers in the following years, Ron Griffiths stepped down as head coach in November to take charge of Newcastle's NSW Cup side.

The move, to which Griffiths alluded after the 2023 grand final, left Newcastle to poach Jeffries from North Queensland as they target a 'three-peat'.

A Knights junior in his playing days, Jeffries coached the Cowboys to a 2-7 record in 2023, with the side tapering off as their inaugural season progressed.

Newcastle's Tamika Upton, the reigning Dally M Player of the Year, and Caitlan Johnston worked with Jeffries during his time as Indigenous All Stars coach.

The 43-year-old also mentored up-and-coming Knights players Felila Kia and Jayde Herdegen when he was Queensland's under-19s State of Origin coach in 2022.

The Knights' official pre-season doesn't begin until May, with round one of the NRLW set for July, but some players have already convened for informal sessions under Jeffries to keep their fitness up.

Teammates' endorsements, and her dealings with the new coach, have left Southwell believing Jeffries can help ensure the premiership trophy remains in the Hunter.

"That's the plan," Southwell told AAP.

"All the girls couldn't speak highly enough of him and said that he'd be great for us.

"He's a legend of a bloke. From all that I've seen and heard, everyone can't talk highly enough of him."

Southwell, who went from uncapped hopeful to State of Origin starter under Griffiths, said the Knights were happy to see their former mentor settling into his new role.

"He's doing really well with the boys as far as I know," Southwell said.

"We wish him all the best. We all knew where we were at as a team and what we needed - Ronnie knew what he needed and what we needed.

"He made the best decision possible.

"We'll still see him around the club. It's really good that we're not just parting ways forever."

Jasper Bruce - AAP


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