Brown defends 'terrific' Mullen
Veteran Knights five-eighth Jarrod Mullen's performance in Newcastle's 28-14 loss to the Bulldogs will be remembered for one untimely slip-up despite it being one of his best displays of the season.
Mullen dominated his side's kicking game which allowed Trent Hodkinson to shine against his former Bulldogs teammates.
Mullen, best suited as a running five-eighth, busted through tackles and got a great offload away to set up Brendan Elliot's first try in the 45th minute.
But his performance will be remembered for a costly error after having a kick charged down by Sam Kasiano in the 55th minute, with Mullen chasing the loose ball back towards his tryline and failing to regather cleanly with Moses Mbye cleaning up the scraps to score for the Bulldogs.
With the scores locked up at 14-all at the time, Mbye's four-pointer ended the Knights' fightback with Newcastle instead slumping to a record 14th straight loss.
"That wasn't Mullen's fault," a defiant Knights coach Nathan Brown said post-game.
"It was what some players did in the lead-up to the kick. Obviously it was great kick pressure from the Bulldogs but we needed to be smarter the two plays before it.
"We put ourselves in a good position off the back of a good play-the-ball and the wrong people received the ball at the wrong time. That's what caused the kick to be charged down.
"Where if it were Canterbury, Melbourne or another mature winning side they would've found the right plays prior to the kick away."
Two separate hamstring complaints have restricted Mullen to just 11 games this season but Brown couldn't have been more pleased with how the 29-year-old injected himself into the team upon his return.
"There's no doubt when Mullo's competing like he has been, it's quite infectious for the team. The key focuses for him are his defensive game, which was super. His kicking game and the way he competes were terrific," Brown said.
"Obviously off the back of that, anything is a real bonus. His contribution we were really happy with. And it should be a different team when someone of that stance in your team plays.
"When they don't, they should be missed and you should be noticed when they're not there."
Brown said the match was another example of how the Knights have turned up against the competition's elite this season, following an unlucky period of games against top-four teams.
"Three of the last four sides we have played that are high on the ladder, we really pushed them. We really pushed Melbourne, Canberra and we were beat by Canterbury which we'd all agree on at the end of the day from a charged down kick," he said.
"We let ourselves down with a number of our inexperienced players coming up with stuff that they'll look at and think I need to do better."