KNIGHTS coach Adam O'Brien fears that mediocrity might be "ingrained" in the club after their embarrassing 36-18 loss to Wests Tigers in the Magic Round opener at Suncorp Stadium last night.
Without injured playmakers Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga and Blake Green, Newcastle were made to look second-rate by the team who kicked off the game 15th on the points table.
The Tigers have now won three of their 10 fixtures this season and two of those successes were against the Knights, after a 24-20 boilover at McDonald Jones Stadium in round three.
The Knights, meanwhile, head to Townsville for a clash with North Queensland on Thursday that they desperately need to win to stay in touch with the top eight.
Not for the first time this season, O'Brien was left shaking his head at his team's lacklustre start to a match, conceding an 18-0 lead in the opening 15 minutes.
It was a similar story in their previous game, when Newcastle trailed Canberra 16-0 at half-time before rallying to win 24-16.
Last night, however, there was no Ponga to produce a get-out-of-jail-free card, and the performance left O'Brien querying why a team who made the finals last season do not appear to have progressed.
"There's been 10 years of probably not having a whole lot of success," he said.
"Three wooden spoons. It's ingrained in us a little bit and we've got to find a way to get a winning culture in there.
"Those teams that have tasted success, they know what it takes and they're that hungry to get it back and taste it again, they're willing to put themselves through anything.
"We've got to learn that."
O'Brien noted his team's lack of resilience and resolve after the Tigers grabbed the early initiative with a runaway Luke Brooks try in the fifth minute.
"It seems that as soon as something goes wrong against us, we capitulate a little bit," he said.
"And that's being really honest. There's definitely some mental stuff there.
"If it's feeling good, it's feeling good, and if it's feeling bad, it's feeling bad for us.
"We've got to find a way to get on with things. You're not always going to have things go your way but you can still wrestle it back.
"We're not willing to do that at the moment."
It was one-way traffic from the moment Brooks raced away to score.
Skipper James Tamou and winger David Nofoaluma crossed in the next 10 minutes, leaving the Knights facing an 18-0 deficit.
A try in the corner by Hymel Hunt gave the Knights a glimmer of hope, but then the Tigers responded with a try and a penalty goal from centre Adam Doueihi.
Adding to Newcastle's woes, Hunt was forced off with a recurring hamstring injury and Jacob Saifiti and Suaso Sue suffered head knocks.
In addition, stand-in fullback Tex Hoy copped 10 in the sin-bin for a professional foul.
The score at half-time was 24-4 to the Tigers, leaving Newcastle facing the prospect of an embarrassing blowout.
A try from bench forward Brodie Jones early in the second half suggested the Knights were intent on producing another great escape, as they did against Canberra.
But further tries from winger Tommy Talau and Doueihi gave the Tigers an unassailable 36-8 lead.
Late consolation tries from Jayden Brailey and Tyson Frizell improved the scoreline for Newcastle, the latter coming after the siren.
It was the first time the Tigers had scored more than 30 points in a game in almost a year.
Doueihi finished with 20 of those points, after scoring two tries and kicking six goals in a successful switch from five-eighth to centre.