Embattled Knights coach Nathan Brown believes the landscape in Newcastle is not as bleak as the one being painted, but conceded criticism for their unacceptable performance against Gold Coast last Sunday was part of the territory.
The 38-14 capitulation against the injury-ravaged Titans was Newcastle’s fifth straight loss, fuelling speculation about Brown’s future and increasing pressure on a team once touted as finals contenders as they prepare to host in-form Parramatta at McDonald Jones Stadium next Sunday.
Though he dismissed accusations made on NRL 360 that Newcastle was a “party club”, and that players had the wrong attitude, Brown said they left themselves exposed to such judgement.
“When we put in a performance like we did on the weekend, and we can’t deny we’ve had one or two off-field incidents, you’ve got to deal with the consequences,” Brown said on Tuesday.
“Things get said about you that you may not like, and you’ve just got to toughen up and live with it and get on with it, and get out and compete on the weekend against a good Parramatta side and try and do your best to get a win.
“You win games, it all drifts away. You don’t win games, it keeps coming.”
As for suggestions he is under pressure to continue as Newcastle coach, he pointed to Canberra and Parramatta counterparts Ricky Stuart and Brad Arthur, who endured similar scrutiny last season only to turn their respective teams’ fortunes around this year.
“These are the things we all deal with, and we know that when we sign up for the job,” Brown said.
“You lose some games and ... when blokes don’t compete, you’ve got to cop your medicine.
“I understand there’ll be plenty of critics out there coming at me now and I know it’s not personal, it’s just the job we’re in. We lose games, I’ve got to cop my medicine and a few of the players have got to cop a bit of stick along the way.
“If the players ever tell me they don’t have confidence in me, well that will certainly be the end of me, but I understand we’re in a results game.
“This year is about improving on last year. That’s what it’s always been about. Where that takes us, I don’t know.
“The first four weeks in particular showed that as a club and a team, we’re far better than we were last year, but we have a bit of a shaky start against Manly then a performance like we did against the Coast on the weekend and everyone’s going to ask questions, which I totally understand.
“I’m very confident we’ve got a lot of good things happening. Unfortunately we lost a few close ones, we went out on the weekend and didn’t compete like we needed to, and we’re here dealing with these questions, and that’s the way it is.”
Though he has named the same 17-man squad out-muscled and out-hustled by the Titans, and “making wholesale changes is not going to fix the area we got wrong on the weekend”, Brown indicated there would be changes come kick-off on Sunday.
Utility Kurt Mann was not considered because of injury but back-rower Sione Mata’utia, named on an extended bench, is expected to return from a shoulder problem. Centre Tautau Moga and props Daniel Saifiti and Herman Ese’ese are also being considered as possible starters.
Brown is prepared to consider the Gold Coast game as an aberration, and not representative of the overall effort given or levels of competitiveness shown in their first five games.
Players who did not meet the required standards will not be castigated publicly but will be shown the error of their ways at the team’s video review and in individual meetings on Wednesday.
“It’s not about yelling and screaming at them," he said.
"We don’t have to rocket them. You’ve just got to get them playing well and playing with confidence, and as I said, if we get the compete bit right first, the confidence in attack will come over time. But if you don’t get the compete bit right, then you get the situation you got on the weekend when things don’t look nice.”