COOTAMUNDRA Strikers skipper Josh Purtell is adamant a short term absence from the Pascoe Cup isn't the solution to the team's issues, but concedes it's up to the club to show they deserve to stay in first grade.
The first grade side was hammered 17-0 at home by ladder leaders Hanwood on Saturday, and the Griffith side is yet to concede a goal in six games in their return to the Wagga competition.
Cootamundra was also beaten 19-0 in reserve grade, and Purtell said it's up to the team to "play with pride" after conceding 44 goals and scoring just six in six games.
The club made the grand final in 2016 but lost a huge amount of talent from the side that missed the finals by a point last year, headlined by co-captain-coaches Brett Farnsworth and Adam McPhail.
"We lost seven first graders. Any club that loses those players is going to struggle because we're a small country town," Purtell said.
"It's up to us as players, a challenge for the rest of the year to prove we do deserve to stay in first grade.
"Getting beat 17-0, I'm sure people are going to be asking questions if we deserve to be where we are and it's up to us (to prove that wrong).
"It's about putting the faith in the young guys and playing with pride, playing with your heart on your sleeve, try and get through this year and regroup after that."
Cootamundra won't be the last team to be embarrassed by a Hanwood side Purtell described as "probably the best we've seen in the league for ten years."
"That Hanwood side is a different level to what we're used to," he said.
"I don't know if that (year off from first grade) is really the answer or not," he said.
"There's that much talent around town it's not funny, sitting on the hill watching.
"I think we would have had 400 games of experience (in the crowd) of players who are capable of playing for us, but for whatever reason they're not.
"There's lot of good juniors coming through, we have to make sure we're around so they have somewhere to go to.
"My thinking would be to stick it out and then next year find some players."