Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has offered Knights coach Nathan Brown a backhanded compliment.

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BRISBANE coach Wayne Bennett has added extra spice to Saturday’s clash with Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium by delivering a backhanded compliment to his Knights counterpart, Nathan Brown.
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FAINT PRAISE: Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett addresses the media on Friday before flying to Newcastle to play the Knights. Picture: AAP

Bennett coached Newcastle during the tumultuous Nathan Tinkler era of2012 to 2014, and Brown was appointed a year after his departure.

Since Bennett left Newcastle the club has slumped to its lowest ebb, collecting three successive wooden spoons, two of them on Brown’s watch.

After an off-season signing spree, Brown has assembled a new-look squad who opened the year with narrow wins against Manly and Canberra, before comprehensive losses to Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra.

“He [Brown] has done a good job there, but we didn’t leave it in bad shape,” Bennett told Brisbane media representatives on Friday.

Asked what Brown had done well, Bennett replied:“I’m not sure yet …well he unbuilt it, so I suppose if you unbuild it, the next thing you’ve got to do is rebuild it.

“That’s what he’s done. They’ve lost a lot of players in the last two years, three years, however long Nathan has been there.”

Newcastle have not beaten Brisbane since the penultimate round of 2013, when Bennett was at the helm of the Knights.

In that time, Newcastle have lost six consecutive games to the Broncos by an average scoreline of 41-12.

Bennett is expecting more resistance this time.

“Mitchell Pearce makes a big difference to them,”Bennettsaid.“They will be keen to play tomorrow night and will be wanting to get back on track after a couple of losses.”

Meanwhile,Brown has revised his opinion of Brisbane’s heavy artillery as his team prepare for a rugged battle up front.

Speaking on Foxtel during last season’s semi-finals, Brown declared the Broncos had “no power runners” in the forwards, and instead relied on mobility and athleticism. Since then Brisbane’s pack has been bolstered by the signing of controversial front-rower Matthew Lodge, whileformer Newcastle junior Tevita Pangai Junior has also emerged as a destructive ball runner.

“In Lodge and Pangai Junior in particular, they’ve got some blokes who can really carry the ball,” Brown said.

“Their back row is more based on leg speed …but with Tevita and Matt Lodge both developing, the Broncos have some big men there who are very powerful and can help change the way play games.”

Pangai (hamstring) and winger Corey Oates (hip) both passed fitness testson Saturday.

The return of Oates, who missed last week’s upset loss to Gold Coast, is a boost for Brisbane and a worry for Newcastle.

The towering Queensland Origin representative has scored seven tries in seven games against the Knights, including a hat-trick the last time he played them, in a 53-0 hammering in 2016.

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