Gardner, however, backed Brown to remain at the helm for Newcastle’s final two games against Gold Coast and Penrith.
Even if the Knights were to win both games, they would need a miracle to reach the play-offs given that they trail eighth-placed Brisbane by three points.
There is a deeper issue as a playing group. It comes back on us as players.
Knights captain Mitchell Pearce
Knights captain Mitchell Pearce rejected suggestions that the drama surrounding Brown contributed to last week’s landslide loss, admitting Newcastle have long-term problems that remain unresolved.
The timing of the announcement, followed by Newcastle’s meek surrender against the Tigers, prompted Knights legend Andrew Johns to say on Channel Nine that the club’s management had effectively “sabotaged” any chance the team had of reaching the finals.
Pearce denied that was the case.
“There’s no excuse from our end about the week that went on and led into that,” he said on Monday.
“There is a deeper issue as a playing group. It comes back on us as players.
“It’s got nothing to do with the coach.
“We as a group need to keep each other accountable with that. It was our attitude. We let our mates down.
“That’s what we spoke about after the game, and it’s something we’ll be dealing with.”
Pearce said the bottom line was that the Knights just haven’t played well enough, not only on Saturday but for most of the second half of the season. They have lost seven of their past eight games.
“There’s a lot of things that have gone on and a lot of the boys would be hurting,” he said. “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. It’s not an excuse for anything else that’s gone on . . . we haven’t been good enough and we need to keep pushing each other as players.”
He said whatever criticism the Knights attracted was warranted.
“We really let our coach down, we let our fans down and, as a team, it was totally unacceptable,” he said.
A sports journalist since 1986 at the Newcastle Herald and Canberra Times (four years), Robert has covered 16 seasons of NRL-level rugby league, three rugby league tours of England, Test matches, Origins, grand finals, international and Sheffield Shield cricket, Wimbledon, A-League soccer and all manner of sport at grassroots level. His stories appear across the Fairfax Media network.