THE odds are already stacked against them, but Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown knows from personal experience that his team can still make the finals, despite their tardy start to the season.
After six rounds, the Knights have only one win to their name and are already four points adrift of the top eight.
History suggests their next game, at home against Parramatta on Sunday, will be crucial to their play-off hopes.
Only two teams since the NRL era kicked off in 1998, Brisbane (1999) and Canberra (2002) have recovered from losing six of their first seven games to make the post-season.
But if Brown has remained unflappable, despite a five-game losing streak culminating in Sunday's 38-14 trouncing by Gold Coast, that is perhaps because he has been in a similar situation twice before, during his years at the helm of St George-Illawarra.
In 2005, the Dragons were winless and last after four games, and two rounds later had registered a solitary victory.
They recovered to win 15 of their remaining 18 games and finish equal first on 36 points, denied the minor premiership by Parramatta on for-and-against statistics.
They were subsequently eliminated by eventual premiers Wests Tigers in the grand final qualifier.
Three seasons later, the Dragons were again one from six but strung together 12 wins from their last 18 games to finish seventh, before losing to champions Manly in the first round of the play-offs.
So while Knights fans are entitled to be concerned at the lacklustre performances from an under-performing team of stars, there is a long way to go, and plenty of time to find form and momentum.
Brown should be well aware, however, that his team has arrived at a pivotal juncture.
In both 2005 and 2008, the Dragons won their round-seven showdowns to stay in contact with the top eight.
The only two teams to have reached the finals after starting the season with a one-and-six record, Brisbane in 1999 and Canberra three years later, both did so in exceptional circumstances.
Brisbane, the defending premiers, were rocked by the unexpected retirement of club legend Allan Langer before finding form halfway through the season.
Canberra earned a play-off spot with a record low tally of 10 wins (plus a draw) after Canterbury were stripped of all competition points for rorting the salary cap.
Meanwhile, Brown faces one of the toughest selection meetings of his coaching career on Tuesday when he names his squad to face the Eels.
He admitted the Knights made "some horrible errors" against the Titans, were "were very bad in a part of the game" and were "poor" in transition.
Despite that, he indicated he would stick with Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson as his halves, despite the latter's error-marred display.
"I don't see why we'd want to change it, that combination," he said
Injured duo Kurt Mann (sternum) and Sione Mata'utia (shoulder) are likely to be reinstated to the squad if they receive clearances, while Daniel Saifiti is pushing for a promotion from the bench to the starting line-up.
Centre Tautau Moga could be a candidate after spending the past few weeks in NSW Cup.