Newcastle coach Nathan Brown wondered if some of his players were caught up in the pre-season hype about the team after their fumble-fingered 30-6 trial loss to Cronulla at Maitland on Saturday night.
The Knights have been one of the most active clubs in the transfer market in the past 12 months, luring several high-profile recruits including NSW and Australian prop David Klemmer.
Many pundits predict they are poised to return to the finals for the first time since 2013, but Brown said they had much to work on to live up to that expectation.
Newcastle scored just one try, to exciting 18-year-old wing prospect Starford Toa midway through the second half, but they were trailing 30-0 before that and never seriously threatened the Sharks.
"Trials are trials at the end of the day. Would we have liked to have done better, of course we would have, but it's all about preparing for round one," Brown said.
"Maybe a few blokes might sit back and think this is going to be a fair bit harder than what they first thought. They're a really good bunch of guys, so they're certainly not blokes not training well and preparing well, but it is what it is, I suppose.
"They're all on social media these days, and they all read a lot more than what we did back in the day. Has it had an effect on some players? Maybe it did, because there were certainly some players out there today who were far, far below where they need to be."
Match Highlights: Knights v Sharks
The Knights made too many handling mistakes to mount any real challenge, and Brown was especially disappointed with tries scored through the middle of the field by Andrew Fifita just before half-time and Chad Townsend in the 52nd minute.
"Early on, whether it was lack of concentration, whether people have been reading too much into how good we're gonna go, whether people were over-confident, there's probably any number of things," Brown said.
"Then in the end, all's we had was a number of blokes just running around playing by themselves.
"That's what happened in the end after all the errors but I couldn't put my finger on any one reason why there were so many… Why it happened, I can't honestly tell you, but it's certainly not the way you want to play the game."
Brown did not spare star halves Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga or fullback Connor Watson, who all struggled to make an impact, but he had no intention of shifting anyone before a rematch against the Sharks at McDonald Jones Stadium on March 15.
"They weren't flash today, mate. Today wasn't their day, that's for sure. A lot of the early errors weren't them though, but they certainly never got any flow in attack," he said.
"When you're turning the ball over like we did, they never got going, then in the end in that little period, they were probably all playing a bit by themselves."
Match: Knights v Sharks
Round 3 -
Venue: Maitland Sports Ground, Newcastle
Pearce said the error count was unacceptable "so we'll have to work on that in the next 10 days".
"We've got to take the lessons out of a trial game and reinforce what wins footy games, and that's completions, kicking the ball into a corner and taking the energy out of your opposition, and we didn't do any of that tonight," Pearce said.
"It's a trial game for a reason. We've got to take the positives out of it and the negatives, and for me, the first thought after the game, completions is a big thing."