Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown believes Tariq Sims has been the target of "unfair criticism" following his decision to leave the club for the Dragons at season's end.
It was announced right on full-time of the Knights' heartbreaking 20-18 loss to the Eels that Sims had signed a three-year deal with the Red V.
Speaking in the aftermath of the defeat Brown said the Dragons' offer determined the value the off-contract back-rower – a value the Knights weren't willing to match.
"I understand Tariq is getting a bit of a hard time on social media. People probably need to understand that Tariq didn't come in and demand a pay rise, the market forces determine Tariq deserved to get paid what he's to be paid," Brown said.
"As the head coach of the club and with 'Moons' (Football Manager Darren Mooney) we made a decision that it wasn't in our best interests to move into those figures at this stage.
"Tariq's copping a bit of unfair criticism out there because of what someone else was willing to pay. He is well within his right to actually say 'I'm going to get paid this elsewhere and if you aren't going to come to the party well then I may leave'.
"That's the business we're in. It's not his fault he got offered what he got offered. The Dragons determined he has a value. We have inherited a roster that has a salary cap which is in a certain situation and we have to make some hard calls early on."
Trent Hodkinson was saddened to see his fellow co-captain depart.
"We're disappointed to see a teammate go no doubt," he said. "But Taz's decision is for him and his family moving forward. It is what it is."
Rumour has had Canberra's Mitchell Barnett, Rooster Brendan Elliot and a number of Dragons linked to the Knights as mid-season signings in recent weeks.
Yet Brown was unsure of the injury-depleted Knights' next step in player market.
"We have looked at a number of things, whether anything happens there or not I couldn't honestly tell you. I can't give you any definitive answers," Brown said.
"Obviously our squad's quite small at the minute. I think we had 13 of our top 25 unavailable so it would be good if we could bring one or two in to help the squad until we get more blokes back from injury."
On the game itself, Brown was buoyed by some aspects of their slender two-point loss to Parramatta.
Brown was hoping the positives would manifest into something more ahead of their trip to North Queensland next Saturday night. He was also hopeful veteran lock Jeremy Smith (biceps) would be right to make the Townsville trip.
"Our effort and commitment was great. Some guys had their best games since I've been here and I thought in the first half in particular we played some really positive footy in attack," Brown said.
"That was off the back of our ruck defence. We fell away a little bit at times but for the fair bit of the game we competed well.
"The second half we didn't play as positively as we did in the first half. We could've used the ball a little bit more but I did get a lot of enjoyment out of watching us attack and a lot of our defensive stuff in the first half.
"There was a lot of commitment and effort there from a lot of the guys which I hope we can get some consistency from and take it forward."