Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien declared Queensland may have ruined Kalyn Ponga’s chances of returning for Origin II after rushing him into camp last week against the Knights’ wishes.
The Knights star was selected in the Maroons squad for Wednesday’s series opener but it quickly became clear he was nowhere near to full fitness after suffering a groin injury last month.
Ponga is expected to be out for at least another fortnight and is no certainty to play in Origin II on June 27.
“Our medical staff had looked at him and had little hope (of him playing in game one),” O’Brien said after his side’s 40-4 loss to Parramatta on Sunday.
“Whether that’s put him behind by going up there (into camp) …it probably has a little bit.
“In hindsight, I reckon his best chance of (playing in) game two would have been to stay here and keep working with the group that works with him.”
Ponga was one of a number of key Newcastle players missing as Parramatta made short work of the home side before a subdued crowd at McDonald Jones Stadium.
On an afternoon where the club’s 2001 premiership-winning side was honoured as part of old boys’ day, the Knights waved the white flag early.
They trailed 22-0 at the break, continually falling off tackles and coughing up possession.
The second half wasn’t much better.
“It got like quicksand for us and made life really tough. I don’t know whether the week got to us but we were off a fair way,” O’Brien said.
“There’s some guys hurting after that loss and there is a little bit of added spice (because it was old boys’ day)
“They understand there won’t be some nice things written about them, but there’s no listening to the pats on the back if you’re not prepared to listening to the kicks in the bum
“We left ourselves open to that.”
O’Brien took over as Newcastle’s coach at the start of last season. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
O’Brien is counting the days until his stars return but warned it will not be a cure-all.
He said: “Don’t think I’m giving excuses but if you take seven out of Penrith, they get beat.
“We’ve had about seven or eight out every week.
“There’s a lot of key personnel that are going to help but we have to lay some really solid foundations because it won’t matter if these guys come back and we dish that up.”
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur demanded a lift in form from his side and got it after listless back-to-back losses.
“We wanted to frontload our effort today. There was big improvements from what we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks,” he said.
There was good news on hooker Reed Mahoney (shoulder) and halfback Mitchell Moses (calf) after both left the field injured.
Mahoney may miss only a couple of weeks while Moses was taken off as precaution and is not expected to miss any football.
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