KNIGHTS captain Mitchell Pearce believes the teams with the greatest desire will emerge from the traditional late-season dogfight and qualify for the NRL play-offs.
After three straight losses, Newcastle have slipped to eighth rung on the competition ladder and find themselves among a logjam of sides jostling for positions in the finals. A loss to Wests Tigers at McDonald Jones Stadium could leave the Knights outside the top eight for the first time since their 45-12 demolition of St George Illawarra on May 19.
After the Tigers, Newcastle play Manly (away), Parramatta (away), North Queensland (home), Tigers (away), Gold Coast (home) and Penrith (away).
Pearce, a veteran of six finals campaigns with the Roosters, including their 2013 premiership triumph, said the competition was entering its make-or-break phase and he was excited about what lies ahead.
"This next month is massive," he said.
"All the teams we're playing are probably in that same sort of situation. We're all in around that same sort of spot.
"Every game is hard now, but that's why this is the exciting time of year. It's about how much you want it, and if you want it, you're going to get the results."
Pearce said the Knights were "in not a bad position" despite consecutive defeats at the hands of the Warriors (24-20), Canterbury (20-14) and Roosters (48-10).
Earlier in the season they strung together six successive wins, but since then they have lost four of their past five games.
"You don't lose yourself over two weeks," Pearce said.
"It was a bit of a disrupted couple of weeks over Origin, but last week there was no excuse for that.
"We've got to recreate what we've been doing."
Newcastle's players and coach Nathan Brown reviewed on Monday their implosion against the Roosters, during which they leaked six converted tries in the final 24 minutes.
"I'm sure today there'll be a bit of negativity no doubt after the review, and there should be, but we'll move on and get ready for the Tigers," Pearce said.
Pearce said Newcastle's capitulation in the second half "just wasn't up to scratch" but there were positives to salvage from the first 55 minutes of play.
At that point, the Knights trailed 12-10 and could even have been leading the premiers, had they capitalised on some scoring chances.
"We were right in the game, but the way the game finished, and the way it blew out, we're disappointed with that," he said.
"You can't drop your standards and bring that looseness into your game.
"It's something we need to tidy up ... [but] I thought there were parts of our footy where we moved the Roosters around really well.
"There were two or three missed opportunities with the ball.
"That's not an excuse, but there were some opportunities there.
"I think defensively we need to get our 'D' back to be better."
Pearce said he spoke to his players as the scoreline mounted about the need to "swing the momentum back".
Now they need to do the same with their season, starting against the Tigers, who sit one win and four competition places behind Newcastle.
Like the Knights, the Tigers are coming off three successive defeats, most recently a 20-12 loss in Canberra.
While you're with us, did you know The Herald is now offering breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up-to-date with all the local news - sign up here.