Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien says recovering Queensland star Kalyn Ponga may have jeopardised his State of Origin II hopes by not remaining at his NRL club for treatment.
After the Knights suffered a 40-4 NRL thumping from Parramatta on Sunday, O'Brien claimed Newcastle medical staff rated Ponga "little chance" of playing due to a groin complaint when the fullback was picked by Queensland for the series opener.
Ponga still flew out to join the Maroons camp on the Gold Coast, only to be ruled out days later before Wednesday's Origin I in Townsville.
O'Brien said Ponga's decision not to stay in Newcastle may have hurt not only his recovery but his game two selection chances.
"I guess by going up there he was some hope," O'Brien told reporters after Newcastle's eight tries to one loss at McDonald Jones Stadium.
"Our medical staff had looked at him and our experts had little hope.
"But whether that has put him behind (being selected for Origin II) by going up there - it probably has a little bit.
"In hindsight his best chance for game two would have been to stay here and keep working with the group that works with him."
O'Brien said Ponga, along with star playmaker Mitchell Pearce (pectoral), was still closing in on a return but would be unlikely to be right for Saturday's clash with South Sydney.
O'Brien needs all the help he can get after Parramatta ruined Newcastle's annual Old Boys Day celebrations on Sunday.
Not much went right for the Knights (5-8 record) who trailed 22-0 at halftime and were down to 12 men after Sauaso Sue was sin-binned in the 67th minute for a late tackle.
Local fans were buzzing before the match as the club saluted members of their 2001 premiership win over the Eels who had gathered for their special day.
But the Knights were without seven regular starters and had two players making their Newcastle debuts - ex-North Queensland playmaker Jake Clifford and Jack Johns, son of club great Matthew.
Mat Croker was playing his first NRL game.
"Please don't think that I am giving excuses here, but you take seven out of the Penrith side and they get beat," O'Brien said.
Newcastle's ranks may be further depleted after three players went on report and winger Starford To'a suffered a groin injury.