ILLAWARRA coach Brian Goorjian admits it is situation critical for his team as it prepares for two crucial games in less than 48 hours.
The Hawks led by as much as 14 points in the first half of Wednesday's clash with Brisbane, only to squander a halftime lead and drop the first game on a five-day home treble.
It was a third straight loss and their third defeat in four games on their home floor heading into Friday's clash with bogey side South East Melbourne.
The run concludes against Cairns on Sunday, with Goorjian saying it's make or break time for the Hawks finals prospects.
"You can't get away from the fact we're losing consistently right now," Goorjian said.
"There's teams in this that you've got a good shot against. It's a home game against Brisbane, it's our fifth time playing them... it's one that's going to hurt.
"We've been waiting for this home stand and we're up against it now. I know there's a lot of games left but these next two games are really, really desperate.
"I thought [Wednesday] was a big one for us and these next two now [there's] tremendous pressure there to step up and get something done.
"Phoenix is a real, real tough one for us. That's going to be a real challenge."
Being on the wrong end of a 17-4 run to start the third quarter was a telling factor in the defeat, just a week after giving a 24-0 run to the Phoenix in their previous home outing.
We've been waiting for this home stand and we're up against it now. I know there's a lot of games left but these next two games are really, really desperate.Brian Goorjian
The Hawks were also quick to settle for the perimeter shot in going 8-29 from long range, a clip of just 27 per cent.
Goorjian has pointed to fatigue for recent lacklustre efforts on the road, but said he wasn't going to be using that as an excuse followings Wednesday's loss.
"I thought we moved bodies pretty well," he said.
"With the Emmett Naar [head knock] we had to play Tyler more in the second half than we would've liked but I don't think physical fatigue was a factor. I really don't. We've got rest, we're back at home, there's no more excuses on that front.
"I thought in the third quarter we had control of it and when they made a run we went to a bad place for four or five minutes and then we were playing catch up. I don't have my finger on the answer.
"Offensively just the quicks shots [hurt us]. We get a 10-point lead, they make a comeback, which happens... I don't know if it's youth or direction or what, but we fell down four and it was just one pass, shot, one pass shot in desperation.
"It's just mentally, if it's a weakness in us, it's going through a grind to get a good shot, going through a grind defensively to finish the play.
"That was a bad sign, not being able to go through the grind."
Naar's head knock will rule him out of Friday's clash, with Goorjian saying there's no "mucking around" with concussion.
"Losing anyone during this stretch makes things more difficult as we've already got Bairstow out as well," Goorjian said.
"Emmett had found a good rhythm in the last couple of games and we were looking at using him a little more next to Tyler [Harvey] to take some of the heat off him, so this is a bad break.
"Any knock to the head needs to be taken seriously and we're seeing more sports around the country put a greater focus on it now. We're making sure every precaution is taken with Emmett and his health moving forward."