After three sensational performances in the early rounds of Group 3, the Macleay Valley Mustangs received a lesson at the hands of Port Sharks on Saturday.
Both sides met at Verge Street Oval with two wins apiece as the Sharks asserted their dominance, winning 40-14.
"I don't think we turned up to play at the end of the day, we played in patches, it was out of character," Mustangs co-coach Anthony Cowan told the Argus.
"You can't play in patches against teams, you've always got to play up tempo footy with a high intensity."
After riding the highs of close wins over Taree and Wingham and an admirable loss to Breakers, Cowan believes his boys will be better for the experience.
"It was one of those games that I personally think we needed," he said.
"We needed a loss like that moving forward to give these young boys the experience that you can't always win games, you're going to have these losses which comes with first grade football.
"It's a learning curve - this is what you learn being a first grader but they've got good footy heads on their shoulders and I'm sure they'll be hungrier this weekend to get back out there and perform well.
"I'd rather have these losses now than in the back of the season."
The Mustangs will now play Forster-Tuncurry Hawks this Saturday in what will be the last of their home games for five rounds.
"Now we turn that [performance] around at training leading into this week against Forster and see how they react to that," Cowan explained.
"We'll be on the road for five weeks after this weekend so we need to turn it around with a good win against Forster who'll be a challenge.
"Rocko [Steve Walker] and I will prepare our boys the best we can and hopefully get on a winning streak again."
Walker, who missed the weekend's clash, will face the Group 3 judiciary this Wednesday after being sent off for a high shot against Breakers.
The co-coach is looking for a downgrade.
"We've got a lot of depth there in our squad that can cover Rocko's position but hopefully we do get a downgrade on his charge and get him back on the field," Cowan said.
In reserve grade, the Sharks ran out 24-16 winners in a much closer affair.
The Mustangs did have some joy though with 18's securing a comprehensive 56-0 win.
"They've got a really good young squad there, Reuben's doing a good job with them young boys and it comes down to attitude at training," Cowan added.
"They turn up every week with a good attitude, a positive vibe and the culture is good among their playing group so that's why they're getting really good results every week."
In other Group 3 first grade results, Wauchope defeated Taree 34-6, Wingham won 18-16 over Port City Breakers while Old Bar defeated Forster-Tuncurry 30-20.
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