Rather than simply celebrate a grinding win over the Brisbane Broncos on Saturday night, Newcastle coach Nathan Brown could not resist a shot at former Knights coach Wayne Bennett over his time in charge of the club.

Bennett was coach of the Knights for three seasons from 2012-14, before Brown took over in 2016, and was given the task of rebuilding virtually from scratch. 

The former Dragon did not hold back in letting Bennett know that he holds him responsible for leaving the club in such a bad state, ending his post-match press conference after landing the blow.

"The reality is, when Wayne came to town, if he thought with his big head rather than his little head I wouldn’t have had to rebuild the joint," Brown said.

"It's a bit sad isn't it; the old fox has won seven premierships, he has coached for 30 years, and I haven't publicly bagged Wayne or anyone - then he comes and has a shot at me.

"I don't think he needs to bait like that."

It follows Bennett's comments before the match that he did not leave the club in bad shape, rather it was Brown who "unbuilt" the club, and therefore needed to re-build it.

The exchange did not take the shine off the performance for the Knights' coach, who labelled the 15-10 win the best win he has had since taking charge of the club.

"For our younger blokes who I was quite hard on last week, this was the hardest game they would have played in," Brown said.

"I say that because there was very few penalties, the Broncos were here to play, it was a fast game and we had the chance to win the game, or lose the game.

"So I thought they showed they could go the pace in a high-intensity game with the right mindset."

Bennett had been asked on Friday about Brown's efforts to rebuild the Knights and responded with: "Well he unbuilt it, so I suppose if you unbuild it, the next thing you've got to do is rebuild it. That's what he's done. They've lost a lot of players in the last two years, three years, however long Nathan has been there."

Brown told Triple M on Sunday: "I was a bit hurt by the fact that Wayne publicly criticised me when I've taken a holistic approach up here to give the team and the town something long term and I've never publicly criticised anyone for what went on up here. I just didn't think it was warranted, that's all.

"I knew it was going to be a hard job. We feel like we're headed in the right direction."

The reality is, when Wayne came to town, if he thought with his big head rather than his little head I wouldn’t have had to rebuild the joint.

Nathan Brown

Brown said he would have a conversation with Bennett if the Brisbane coach wanted to discuss the matter.

Newcastle had lost six in a row to Brisbane, and Brown was full of praise for the defensive effort, which he said had improved dramatically after 68 points were conceded in losses to the Roosters and Dragons.

Halfback Mitchell Pearce also believes Newcastle's defence was "world class", but it is now about becoming more consistent.

"The key for us is to back that up week to week now," Pearce said. "We have got a big task against Melbourne, so it does not get any easier."