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Newcastle's coach Wayne Bennett and five-eighth Jarrod Mullen have expressed pride in an under-strength side that played valiantly before going down to Manly 15-14 at Brookvale on Monday night.

The club also refused to blame the distraction around the reported non-payment of players and staff recently. Bennett said he thought the side deserved to win but was lucking both luck and execution.

"It's just our season. It's not our night. We're not playing with much luck and it's just not happening for us," he said.

"Of course I'm proud of them – they were wonderful, outstanding."

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He said the performance wasn't about the disruption of the previous three days.

"It's about the way we're playing our football this year – one week we're good, the next week we're ordinary. I just want to get some consistency," he said.

Mullen said the side, which few had expected to win against a second-placed Manly side in their backyard, played some good, tough footy.

"If we turn up like that every week we're going to win some games. There was plenty of effort by the boys, I really feel for them in the sheds, they were pretty down," Mullen said.

"I think we tried pretty hard, it's a tough one to take."

He agreed the non-payment issue hadn't been a factor.

"We knew we had a job to do coming here, no-one expected us to win," he said.

"The odds were against us, we had a few boys out, a few of the main forwards. I thought the forwards played really tough, I'm really proud of everyone in there."

Bennett said with six or seven players missing – including late withdrawals Beau Scott and Joey Leilua – the players out on the park are still putting their hand up.

"That's all I can ask, I can't ask for miracles," he said.

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