Newcastle coach Nathan Brown has poured cold water on superstar Kalyn Ponga's plan to return to the NRL paddock against the Gold Coast next weekend.
Ponga's influence was sorely missed as the Knights lacked attacking spark in their ugly yet tense 18-16 victory over a hapless Parramatta at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.
The 20-year-old sat on the sidelines after being struck down by a hamstring injury which also kept him out of State of Origin III.
After going down against Canterbury a fortnight ago, he was slated to miss three to four weeks and eyeing off next Saturday's home clash with the Titans as a possible return date.
However, with the side's finals chances evaporated, Brown said they would not be risking long-term injury.
"I'd be doubtful," Brown said.
"If it was a grand final, you'd probably say yes. But he's too important for the club's long-term future to be risking him with a hamstring at this stage.
"I'd be surprised if he made next week. He'll be touch and go. But I'd be surprised, we're not going to push him at this stage."
In Ponga's absence, debutant Nick Meaney did a commendable job in the No.1 jersey against the Eels.
After losing seven of their previous eight, the Knights were a far more organised outfit with Mitchell Pearce playing his first game since April because of a pectoral injury.
As well as scoring what turned out to be the game-winning try early in the second half, he controlled field position as the home side took advantage of an error-riddled Eels.
Parramatta were lucky to be in the contest after making 14 errors and completing at just 61 per cent on the back of a litany of cardinal errors.
Asked if his side should have won by more, Brown said: "Anytime you win you've got to be happy.
"We had a player make his debut today, Nick Meaney and he's one of the only debutants at the club in the past couple of years to have won (in his debut game).
"Everytime you win you've got to have an element of happiness.
"We played like boneheads in the last 15 minutes but it's been 12 weeks since Junior (Pearce) has played.
"When we did lead by the small margin in the latter part of the game, we could have done things a lot smarter, which I would expect after going through what we went through."