The Knights have been blunted in attack and no one is feeling the pinch more than Bradman Best but the centre said they need to be better to overcome the opposition's defensive game plans.
After bursting onto the scene last year with eight tries in 11 appearances last year, Best has been a marked man for rival clubs along with Knights star Kalyn Ponga with defenders rushing out of the line to nullify Newcastle's main attacking threats.
The 19-year-old centre has been working with coach Adam O'Brien on ways to combat the extra attention.
"There are times where I want the ball but am not getting it, and there are other times where I'm getting the ball but they're up in my face and jamming me," he told NRL.com.
"We can see that early on in the games, that they're putting numbers on us, so we just need to be better with the game plan there.
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"It's been tough because we know we can do it, we have the potential, do a lot of it at training and have done it at games but just do it enough."
Best said the team's recent attacking woes were frustrating but believes the halves aren't to blame for a lack of points being scored.
The Knights face a Raiders outfit just as desperate to get a win on the board after a sluggish 3-5 win record to start the year and in a clash that will place further heat on the losing side.
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Newcastle sit above only the Wests Tigers, Broncos and Bulldogs for the fewest tries after eight rounds, while their points per game has plummeted from 21 last year to 17.1.
While O'Brien has put on a brave face in recent weeks, the loss of inspirational halfback Mitchell Pearce has been the catalyst to the situation they're in with their attack.
O'Brien will turn to eight-game rookie Phoenix Crossland in Blake Green's absence this week with the veteran sidelined due to a rib injury.
Pearce is due back for the Knights in round 14 but O'Brien conceded last week the side's finals aspirations could all be over by then if the players don't find the hunger and desire they're lacking.
"Pearcey has been a big loss, everyone knows that, but we can't rely on him," Best said.
"We still have Greeny, Killer [Kurt Mann] Phoenix and KP [Ponga]. It's not the spine, it's our forward pack and outside backs that have to be better for them to be able to be put in better positions.
"At training we're good but it comes to the game and we just get flustered. It's been clunky and we haven't gelled.
"We're the same team as last year, if not better with Friz, Sauaso and Brails in the side. I think it's a mindset for us at the moment. It's a team mentality with the attack."
It's been clunky and we haven't gelled.Bradman Best
Newcastle's inconsistencies have been more visible since they got themselves off the bottom of the ladder after three wooden spoon seasons in 2018.
They started with five wins from eight games during that season before Pearce injured his pectoral and missed nine games. They won just four of their last 16 matches.
Their 2019 campaign started the opposite with just one win inside six rounds, before the team won six in a row.
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They then, however, lost six on the trot shortly after to bow out of finals contention.
Newcastle's inconsistent results looked to have improved under O'Brien in 2020 but a win-loss-win-loss finish last year re-iterated their mixed form.
In 2021, things have continued, leading to suggestions this week the club's players are happy to be playing in the NRL but not necessarily desperate to bring success to the town.
"It's hard to take when you hear that being said about the players here," Best said.
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"To hear that, it hurts. We've all got that desire and hunger in us. You always go out there to win.
"But the way you respond is through your actions. You can talk the talk but go out there and actually do it. Show that you're hungry and show that you're keen.
"It's not just a game of rugby league for me. You want to leave a mark on the game and play your best footy and prove to everyone how good you are."
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