This time three weeks ago the Newcastle Knights were riding high. Two straight wins, a mountain of points and the pleasure of proving pre-season predictions wrong.

Then came the clash with the Premiers. Surely reality would come crashing upon Newcastle and their fans like a thousand waves?

I'd argue the Knights managing to score 20 points against the reigning Premiers did more good than any win over the Wests Tigers could.

Then the high flying Newcastle Knights waltzed on in to a third vs fourth clash in the Shire against the equal high flying Sharks.

Since then though Newcastle fans have been living out their worst fears and what was unfortunately predicted by many in the pre-season.

Usually, I preface these kind of pieces by saying "it's still early" but after five rounds most sides are now well in stride. Newcastle across the past two weeks have not found their stride ... at all.

The aforementioned fears are of course that without Mitchel Pearce guiding the ship that there would be a difficulty in scoring points.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 29: Mitchell Pearce of the Newcastle Knights looks to pass the ball during the round 15 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Brisbane Broncos at McDonald Jones Stadium on June 29, 2019 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

After five rounds of NRL action, the Knights have scored 72 points. Only the Broncos, Bulldogs and Tigers have scored less.

To put this into perspective their draw thus far has included top eight hopefuls the Roosters, Sharks, Panthers and Sea Eagles as well as wooden spoon favourite the Tigers.

Someone defending the Knights could very well point out that their opposition to date has been tough. They did manage to beat the Roosters by scoring 20 points.

My retort would be that any side hoping to play finals footy should be beating other top eight sides.

Over the past 160 minutes of football, against two sides expected to feature come finals time in 2022, they have scored four points.

This came from a lovely break on their left-hand side that saw Enari Tuala put Kalyn Ponga over beside the sticks.

Now it is also worth mentioning the horror weather conditions that plagued both of their most recent contests. That said, apart from the one moment of individual brilliance from Bradman Best and Enari Tuala, they never even looked like scoring.

They haven't had the direction or experience to adopt an appropriate game-plan to build the pressure required to score in the pouring rain.

Jake Clifford, for all his brilliance and monster boot, has been unable to take the reins and dictate play. The one time he kicked through the ball against Cronulla (in heavy wind) he sent the ball to Caringbah.

The ball bounced 20 metres over the in goal line allowing the Sharks to waltz back to the 20 metres with seven tackles in their back pocket.

I'm not suggesting for a second that Newcastle would have won that game with Pearce, or even Andrew Johns, at halfback but you have to imagine that somewhere in his 300-plus NRL game resume that Pearce could draw from his experience.

The fact Newcastle supposedly (who really knows) went so hard in for Luke Brooks shows they were not confident entering 2022 with a young halves pairing.

ROCKHAMPTON, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 21: Luke Brooks of the Tigers looks dejected after losing the round 23 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Cronulla Sharks at Browne Park, on August 21, 2021, in Rockhampton, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Brooks, who himself has struggled to the point Tigers fans are listing him for free on social media sale websites as a weekly joke, would have added over 110 more games worth of experience than the senior Knights half.

Newcastle have been linked with Anthony Milford ever since a one-year contract with the Rabbitohs was knocked back by the NRL.

Those links have become far more intense since Milford's availability was confirmed following a court ruling this past week. For the record I expect him to sign for the red and blue sooner than later, provided an NRL investigation is completed.

Even with Milford, who was let go by a side who have been terrible across the past few seasons on board the Knights still won't strike fear into too many opposition defences.

They have a bright, shiny weapon out wide in Bradman Best yet seem to forget he exists at times. Whether that is Best not throwing his hand up or the halves not being able to provide quality ball to his side of the field, this needs be addressed quickly.

The big issue right now, at least in my view, is the bang average form of million-dollar marquee man Kalyn Ponga.

Is he distracted by meetings with and promises of big money by Wayne Bennett?

Is he struggling without 300 gamer Mitchell Pearce calling the shots?

Is Ponga perhaps just not as good as Newcastle brass and fans once thought he may be?

I can't provide the answer to any of those questions but Adam O'Brien has to either find a solution or a good deal on an early Mad Monday location.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 27: Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce of the Knights looks on during the round seven NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Newcastle Knights at QCB Stadium on June 27, 2020 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

There is still plenty of time to turn things around. Newcastle have a very winnable game this weekend against the Dragons.

If they don't secure the two competition points though they have the Eels and Storm in their near future. Anything less than a free-flowing display against the Red V really hurts their finals hopes.

Where do the points come from? Does Ponga wake up on Sunday afternoon and re-find his very top form? Does Jake Clifford realise his undoubted potential across the next month? Do Newcastle remember Bradman Best is out wide?

The next month will arguably decide the Knights 2022 outcome. Two very winnable games against the Dragons and Cowboys should see an improvement on their points differential.

It will be their tally against the Storm and Eels that will go a long way to either shutting worries down or confirming the nightmares are coming true.