Knights coach Nathan Brown.
Knights coach Nathan Brown.

McKinnon: Brown’s Wayne sledge not what it seems

FORMER Newcastle Knights star Alex McKinnon believes Nathan Brown was not referencing Wayne Bennett's love life in his controversial post-match dig at the legendary coach.

A stunning war of words has erupted after Brown fired back at criticism from Bennett following the Knights 15-10 victory over the Broncos on Saturday night.

Brown appeared incensed by suggestions made by Bennett that the Knights had gone backwards under his watch and the club was forced to rebuild because of his mismanagement of their roster.

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett.

"It's a bit sad. The old fox, he's won seven premierships, he's coached for 30 years and I ain't ever publicly bagged Wayne or anyone," Brown said in response on Saturday night.

"And then he comes and has a shot at me. I just don't think he needs to behave like that.

"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."

Many are interpreting Brown's comments as referencing the breakdown of Bennett's 42-year marriage to former wife Trish. Bennett met his current partner Dale Tynan when he coached at the Knights in 2012-14.

Alex McKinnon.
Alex McKinnon.

But McKinnon - who played under Bennett before a spinal injury tragically ended his career and also worked with Brown as a recruitment co-ordinator at the club - said that's not the case.

"I think it's been misinterpreted. People are taking Nathan Brown stating 'small head' being in a reference to Wayne's relationships," McKinnon said.

"I think that's incorrect. I think it was more an interpretation of Wayne's ego and his mindset of short-term success, and the effect of that at the Newcastle Knights now.

"I don't think that (Wayne's relationships) was the point Nathan Brown was trying to make."

McKinnon said Bennett could be considered an "easy target" from a turbulent period at the club but there was a feeling in Newcastle that his short-term mentality had hurt the club long-term.

"That's why I think Nathan Brown was talking more about Wayne's ego - Wayne himself wanting to win for his resume and not necessarily thinking about long-term success," McKinnon said.

Brown's comments have split opinion within rugby league with some pundits and fans commending him for his honestly and others suggesting he crossed the line.