Having struggled to match their opponents in the middle of the field since the season restarted from the COVID-19 shut down, the return of Pangai Jnr from suspension was expected to boost the Broncos' go-forward.
The Tongan international enforcer had been sidelined for four weeks after he was charged for dangerous contact for a high shot on Justin O'Neill in the Broncos' round one win over the Cowboys.
A renowned aggressor, Pangai Jnr typically flirts with danger on the field which has seen him tally up 12 weeks on the sidelines since the start of last season through suspensions.
The 24-year-old announced his return on Thursday with another bone-rattling hit on Knights prop David Klemmer in the first-half, but some suggestions it was a shoulder charge hint Pangai Jnr could again land himself in hot water with the match review committee.
Despite the early thumping tackle on Klemmer, the Broncos hard man notched up 119 metres from 17 runs and six missed tackles in what was a mixed performance that failed to inspire the Broncos, who slumped to their third straight loss this season, leaving them winless since the season restart.
It led Slater to hand off a stinging assessment of Pangai Jnr's performance where he took aim at the star second-rower's effort.
"Pangai, I must admit, I don't know if he came into the match thinking that he was going to be the saviour for the Broncos," Slater told Channel Nine's post-match coverage.
"He was trying things, but there were too many mistakes around him.
"There were some effort issues around his game as well, and the Broncos would have been better off if he didn't play tonight."
Quizzed on how he felt about the return of his star forward, Anthony Seibold admitted some of Pangai Jnr's touches weren't up to scratch.
"He tried hard but he's gotta be more disciplined about where you offload and why you offload," Seibold said post-game.
"We're all about sighted offloads, you never want to take that off a player, but some were unsighted and some we were going backwards.
"Again, we need to be smarter about our footy."
After starting the season hot with wins over North Queensland and South Sydney, the Broncos have slumped to four-straight losses to the Eels, Roosters, Sea Eagles and Knights since the season's return, scoring just 24 points in that time.
Against Newcastle, it was the same issues that have riddled the side since round three, with the Broncos' cheap errors and lazy penalties again plaguing them throughout the 21-point loss.
The performance led frustrated Brisbane captain Alex Glenn to question his teammates' desire to wear the jersey.
“We’ve got to have some tough conversations, we’ve got to be honest,” a frustrated Glenn said post-match.
“The matter is do you really want to be playing for this team?
“We’re professional athletes and we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to have each other’s back.
“We’ve talked about our defence needs to be better and our preparation through the week, our coaches are prepping us really well, it’s just when we get out on the field we know what our role is but when push comes to shove we crack under pressure, and that’s the harsh reality.
“… We’ve all got to look in the mirror and ask are you giving 100 percent for each other out on that field?”