Knights coach Nathan Brown admits he's caught in a Catch-22 situation of enjoying the prestige of having rep players in his squad but missing their talents when Newcastle are trying to keep their place in the top eight.

The Knights had four Origin players missing from their ranks on Saturday night in the 24-20 loss to the Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium – Mitchell Pearce, Daniel Saifiti, David Klemmer and Tim Glasby. It's a fifth Origin star if you count the injured Kalyn Ponga (calf).

Newcastle led for most of the Warriors game but a high penalty count against them and the fact Warriors winger Ken Maumalo was in fine form denied them the upset.

They will drop from fifth to possibly seventh on the NRL ladder after round 16 depending on the Sharks result on Sunday.

But the loss to the Warriors is a consequence of the Knights missing high-profile troops.

"It's a great challenge for us as a club. We planned some stuff earlier in the week having Junior [Pearce] with us and then we didn't have Junior so we didn't get as much preparation as we would have liked," Brown said.

"But to have five Origin players when we had none 18 months ago means we're really happy we're getting some things right that's for sure."

Now the dilemma for Brown will be whether to have his four Origin players back up 48 hours after game three on Wednesday when the Knights host the Bulldogs on Friday night.

"Certainly we didn't back them up after the first one [Origin] and obviously they were stood down for the next one. We'll certainly be tempted to," Brown said.

"But we'll just have to see how their bodies are."

What didn't please Brown was what he perceived to be overly-harsh penalty counts against his team the past few weeks.

"We've not getting a fair crack of the whip at the moment. That's the reality. Everyone is there; everyone has seen it," Brown said.

"I can whinge about it but they'll justify every penalty."

It was a 10-6 penalty count against the Knights on Saturday.

"Every time we started to get in the arm wrestle we'd get penalised basically," Brown said.

"We’ve had a pretty lean run the last five or six weeks for whatever reason.

"The game is being refereed extremely different to what it was at the start of the year – that's for sure. They want to penalise now whereas the start of the year they didn't want to penalise."