Utility value was a curse for Kurt Mann until a conversation with Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien elevated him to one of the form players of the competition in 2020.
Since making his debut with Melbourne back in 2014, Mann had played every position in the backline and was used as a bench utility with Storm, Dragons and then the Knights.
The 27-year-old was brought to Newcastle by former coach Nathan Brown last season as a dummy half but never got the consistency he craved.
That was until O’Brien sat down with him in the pre-season and promised he would not move him from the No.6 jersey as long as he made his tackles.
“I’ve always wanted to play one position and I’ve always felt five-eighth is probably my best position,” Mann said.
“The style the game has gone down now is more the ball-running halves. It’s what works well now, so it kind of suits me.
“Adam’s been really good for me. He said to me at the start of pre-season … he wasn’t going to move me; he was going to stick with me in one position and give me a decent crack at it and it’s worked out well for me.”
So far this season Mann has five try-assists and two tries, helping the Knights to sit second on the NRL ladder.
In 2019 alone Mann played six different positions, and while he realises his utility value got him into the team, he said it’s also his Achilles heel in establishing himself in the halves.
That was until O’Brien came along.
Looking over the qualities of his squad, O’Brien figured the Knights needed a ball-runner, not a ball-player to fit in with Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga.
“Adz is a great coach, he simplifies everything,” Mann said.
“Footy’s not a complicated game, it’s pretty simple.
“He’s probably the best coach I’ve had; he’s simplified my game and made my role real easy.
“He’s shown a lot of confidence in me and given me that job so it’s really good to play some good footy for him.”