Knights star Kalyn Pronga has broken his silence regarding the departure of former coach Nathan Brown and has admitted his flippant “strawberry thickshake” comment was disrespectful.
Ponga rejected any suggestions that Brown had lost the playing group in the build-up to his departure from the Knights, with the now-former coach leaving his post immediately after their disastrous performance against the Wests Tigers.
The Knights originally announced they would part ways with Brown come the conclusion of the season, but both parties split shortly after the 46-4 drubbing, with two weeks remaining in the year.
Rumours had grown throughout the season surrounding the club’s playing group and its frustrations with Knights management, believing that there was unrest between Brown and the dressing room.
The Knights soon received a wave of criticism from fans and former players, including league immortal Andrew Johns who believed the club had “sabotaged” their own finals chances off the back of how they handled the coaching situation.
To add to the straining headlines for Newcastle, Ponga was soon criticised for his remarks towards Brown’s departure which had been labelled as disrespectful by fans and experts.
“I can understand the way I came across,” Ponga told Fox League.
“I spoke to Browny before that interview and he addressed the playing group and said don’t make it a big deal, he’s come to terms with it. He was pretty positive in the way he addressed us. He just said don’t make it a big thing in the media, we’ve got a job to do.
“Me being me, I came out, made that comment probably at the wrong time in the wrong manner. It’s just been taken a bit out of perspective.
“Browny’s done a lot for me and after that interview, I spoke to him again and he sort of addressed me and said look kid, I understand our relationship. He’s been awesome to myself, my family, my mum, dad, little sister. His family is also close to me.
“He knew it wasn’t disrespectful, but that wasn’t the way it came across.”
Ponga added that he had learnt from his mistakes following a forgetful week for the Knights.
“Personally, it’s been a learning curve,” Ponga said.
“I think when you’re questioned about your playing ability and the way you play, I can cop that. When you’re questioned about your integrity, who you are as a person, it doesn’t only affect you but also your parents.
“My mum and dad were pretty disappointed. My mum razzed me a couple of times which is fair. They know what I’m like as well and they know that whatever I say I never mean to be disrespectful to anyone. That’s just who I am. At the end of the day, they knew that.”
The Knights’ star man soon extinguished any speculation of rifts between Brown and the Knights playing group.
“Nathan’s been with the playing group from day dot,” Ponga said.
“He’s been part of the group through pre-season, through a lot and as all playing groups we had a chat to ourselves internally.
“He never lost the group. That wasn’t the case at all.
“We knew we had two weeks with him and that we had a job to do and that was sort of the way he’d been preaching it as well.
“We were disappointed with the game. A lot of questions, not a lot of answers to that performance. We were disappointed and we just said stay close as a group as you want to, you don’t want to fall apart as a group.
“I haven’t been exposed to anything like this.”