Nathan Brown didn't want to talk about it. In fact, he insisted as much.

"Any questions about Trent Barrett and she's all over," the Newcastle Knights coach said as he was about to start Tuesday's media conference.

We'd been pre-warned about the ban but here it was.

A slap in the face, if you like, for freedom of the press. Direct from the coach himself.


So, for a little over 20 minutes, Brown stood in front of the cameras talking all things footy.

He covered the health of his playing squad after their shellacking from the Broncos leading into Monday's Anzac Day clash against Barrett's Manly side.

Talked about why he wants the NRL to reconsider calls for an 18th and 19th player to be introduced and added to squads for those teams losing players to concussion or foul play.

Even outed rival coaches, without naming names, for rorting the concussion rules and manipulating the system to suit themselves.

"I can show you footage of blokes being knocked out and staying on the field," Brown said after three of his players were ruled out during Saturday night's Brisbane game for failing the concussion test.

"And I can show you footage of blokes having absolutely no concussion and coming off the field and using a head interchange.

"You can see it as plain as day. Coaches are always going to rort the system when they can.

"That's the nature of sport. Us coaches, we manipulate - that's what coaches do. If a new rule comes in, someone tries to beat that rule."

All strong stuff.

But as for talking about Barrett and that infamous face-slapping incident in 2003 ... Well, that subject was strictly taboo.

To be fair to the Knights coach, it did happen 13 seasons ago when, as a 29-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears rookie coach at the Dragons, he summoned captain Barrett and teammates Lance Thompson and Brett Firman to the sideline for some instructions during a tense clash against Manly at WIN Stadium and finished his emotional spiel by poking Thompson in the chest and slapping Barrett in the face.

A lot of water and plenty of apologies have flowed since.

Brown has always maintained it is the biggest regret of his coaching career.

He also privately believes that despite rumours to the contrary, he and Barrett are OK with each other.

But while the Knights coach fully understands why it is a story now with the pair about to confront each other as rival coaches for the first time on Anzac Day at Hunter Stadium, he, like Barrett, doesn't feel the need to add anything to a 13 year old discussion.

So on Tuesday, he didn't. Instead, just leaving us to bring it all back up again.