Newcastle captain Mitchell Pearce has accepted responsibility for the Knights' 46-4 surrender to Wests Tigers at Campbelltown on Saturday that ended any realistic hope of Newcastle reaching the finals.
Responding to criticism from former Newcastle players, including Immortal and premiership-winning captain Andrew Johns, and many of their long-suffering supporters, Pearce said the Knights let down their fans, themselves and departing coach Nathan Brown.
Pearce stressed the announcement last week that Brown would leave the Knights at the end of the season had nothing to do with their performance, or lack thereof, against the Tigers.
“We really let our coach down, we let our fans down, and as a team it was totally unacceptable,” Pearce said on Monday.
“There was a whole lot of things that went wrong, and I think all the criticism that’s coming is warranted. There’s no excuse from our end about the week that went on and led into that.
“There’s a deeper issue as a playing group [in that] it comes back on us as players. It’s got nothing to do with the week around the coach going.
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“We as a group need to keep each other accountable with that. Our attitude, we let our mates down. That’s what we spoke about after the game, and something we’ll be dealing with.
“All I can say is, as captain, I wasn’t good enough on the weekend, as a team we weren’t good enough, and we need to turn that around.”
Pearce said the Knights must nut out a short-term fix in time for their game against wooden-spooners Gold Coast at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday before searching for long-term solutions under a new coach during the off-season.
Since 1997, the Knights have embraced their past by celebrating Old Boys’ Day at the last home game each year, and Pearce indicated the players owed it to those who went before them to have more of a go than they did against Wests Tigers.
“There’s only one way up or none of us will be here,” the NSW No.7 said.
“It’s a football club – we’re all responsible – and it’s an emotional time. A lot of things have gone on, a lot of guys will be hurting, and my responsibility as a captain, I let the boys down on the weekend.
“I need to take responsibility for that and lead from the front, and as a group we let each other down. It’s as simple as that.”
Veteran forward Tim Glasby, who has played in the past three grand finals for Melbourne, will miss the playoffs for the first time in his career. The 30-year-old Queensland representative said the Knights, not for the first time this season, showed a lack of resilience under adversity and it “cost us a finals series”.
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“We’ve had a similar problem through the year where, when things are going against us, we tend to not cope well and it turned into a bit of an avalanche the other night,” Glasby said.
“I can’t speak for everyone in the group but I know personally, I was there to try to make a finals series.
“Browny leaving or staying or whatever was going on during the week, that was certainly around in the background, but when you run out on to the field, you weren’t thinking about what happened with Browny through the week, you were thinking about trying to make the eight.
“It was not up to scratch that performance. It was disappointing, and like I said, we’ve had performances through the year and times through the year where things start going against the team, or a few little things go wrong, and it just capitulates.”
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The Knights were criticised for a perceived lack of effort last Saturday, when they trailed 30-0 at half-time and 46-0 until a consolation try by Aidan Guerra eight minutes from full-time.
“Certainly the attitude wasn’t there on the weekend, I’ll give that, but the boys were trying. Again, we just lacked some resilience in some tough periods – a couple of quick tries against us – and it just seemed to go downhill even faster,” Glasby explained.
“Good footy teams will stem that momentum and stop the flow and try to win back the momentum themselves, and we’re just not at that stage – or we weren’t at that stage, certainly, the other night.”