Adam O'Brien is at a loss to explain why Newcastle aren't hungry enough for success given that the club has the longest grand final drought in the NRL.
Kalyn Ponga was three when the Knights won the 2001 premiership, but in the 19 seasons since they have been to just seven finals series, making it to the preliminary finals only once in 2013.
Last year's qualifying finals loss was the first time since then that the Knights had made the top eight, ending a string of lean years for the club that plunged as low as collecting three consecutive wooden spoons.
And after just three wins to start this season, back-to-back losses to Penrith (24-6) and Sydney Roosters (38-4) has shown O'Brien the chasm of difference in energy of the top sides compared to the Knights.
"(The Roosters) know what success is, they've had it and they're hungry to get it again," he said after Saturday night's loss at McDonald Jones Stadium.
"We don't seem to have that level of hunger, whether that's because we don't know what it tastes like to get it, I'm not sure.
"Just getting picked in the first grade side isn't enough, we need to find a way to compete a lot harder."
O'Brien said the Knights had spoken about starting fast against the Roosters but instead were down 20-0 after just 20 minutes and stayed off the pace.
Ponga provided the only try of the night to Brayden Musgrove half an hour in.
Complicating matters for next week is a rib injury to halfback Blake Green.
With halfback Mitchell Pearce still sidelined with a pec injury, the Knights are short on troops but O'Brien said it's no excuse for the lack of hunger in the team.
"It's bigger than that, we need to find why we're not the team we were last year," he said.
"We were excited by our footy.
"There'd be some stuff for me (to look at) around that too.
"We'll have a conversation about how we get excited about this season because it's not gone yet, but we need to make some decisions about what we want out of it."
The turnaround will need to happen quickly with the Knights set to face Canberra, who are coming off three-straight losses, in Wagga on Saturday.
"They've had some recent success so they'll have that hunger, that's what we have to find," O'Brien said.
"Although we haven't experienced it here for a long time, it's worth chasing. They've just got to trust me on that."