Andrew Johns has savaged Newcastle's management, demanding they explain Nathan Brown's looming exit and accusing them of sabotaging the Knights' season.
Newcastle's 46-4 loss to the Wests Tigers on Saturday night capped off a horror week for the NRL club, and all but ended any chances of a return to the finals.
Just five days after Brown announced he was quitting the club at the end of the season, they fell to 30-0 by halftime in their worst opening 40 minutes in four years.
But a furious Johns claimed management had given any mentally weak players an excuse not to perform and hit out at perceived politics at play behind Brown's exit.
"It's no coincidence this hammering is on the back of what happened during the week with the coach Nathan Brown standing down," the club legend told Channel Nine.
"The way it has been handled is for me really confusing and disappointing.
"The politics which has gone on behind the scenes, you hear whispers of what is going on and you've got to shake your head.
"Someone has to come out publicly and be accountable for what has happened.
"They were on the verge of making the semi-finals and that has been sabotaged. There is no chance now."
Johns largely took aim at recruitment manager Troy Pezet, amid suggestions he had fallen out with Brown in the lead up to the resignation.
Pezet is a long-time Knights employee, and it's been reported he organised a meeting with likely coach-in-waiting Adam O'Brien before Brown's resignation.
"I don't know what qualifications he (Pezet) has got or where has come from but his name keeps popping up in this," Johns said.
"Whether it's Troy Pezet or the boss (CEO) Phil Gardner, someone has to be held accountable.
"The Newcastle fans deserve answers on what happened and the way it's been handled.
"Nathan Brown has rebuilt the whole club and roster. And then for this to happen. You shake your head. It's confusing. I can't believe it."
Johns' comments were supported by NSW coach Brad Fittler who accused Knights management of "weakness" and allowing outside parties to interfere in the running of the club.
"People have recognised there's a weakness at the top with the leadership," Fittler told the Sunday Footy Show.
"Because you don't go to a club and try to pry into it unless there's some weakness you think you can get to.
"ou're not going to do that at Melbourne if you start dragging coaches down there or some of the other bigger clubs.
"Because the leadership at the top would squash it straight away."
Australian Associated Press