MANGOPLAH-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes coach Jeremy Rowe has belief his team can bridge the gap between themselves and clear pacesetter Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong as the team, and himself, lick their wounds after Sunday's 95-point thrashing.
Although the Goannas were missing many first choice regulars through injury, COVID or unavailability, the Lions left zero doubt they're the flag favourites with a ruthless performance.
Their pressure and execution overwhelmed MCUE and Rowe, who is based in Canberra, may allocate more responsibility to his assistants after he ruptured his achilles in reserve grade.
MCUE's list of absentees included Ethan Schiller and Pat Killalea (COVID), Nick McCormack, Zac Wiencke, Max Hanrahan and Charlie Chambers (unavailable), Trent Castles (calf), Ben Halse and Brayden Ambler (knees), Ryan Price (groin), Justin Dore (calf), Mitch Sykes (hamstring), Dom Bunyan (shoulder) and Zac Hanrahan (knee).
Despite this, Rowe was still disappointed with many factors of their game.
However, he mantains faith his team will be able to bridge the gap in time to be one of the premiership challengers to the Lions.
"We're finding our best footy and I think once we find it, I'm confident we'll be as good as anyone," he said.
"But that's only an opinion. It's not an opinion Ganmain is the best team in the comp at the moment, that's fact, and they'll be the best until someone proves otherwise.
"We're up for the challenge, there's no doubt about that.
"Clearly this comment doesn't come from a place of cockiness or overconfidence, because we're n the reality of where we are.
"The belief I have in my list is unquestioned and I can't wait to play Ganmain next time. There's no fear factor there, they're just a bloody good team and we've got to be bloody good to beat them."
Rowe will have to have surgery to repair his achilles, and was unsure what inconveniences that will place on him with travel when contacted on Tuesday.
"I'll go to training tonight (Tuesday) and do a video review with the guys, and get Trent (Cohalan, assistant coach) to take the onfield stuff," he said.
"On Thursday if I'm in for surgery, I'll definitely miss that session. I'm hoping I'll be at the game (against Coolamon at Mangoplah on Saturday) and from there at training and delegating.
"I'll use chance to have some one-on-one meetings with guys. We have to attend to what does seem to be a bit of a chasm at the moment in terms of high quality training efforts, and executing when it matters most.
"There's no doubt there'll be some short term obstacles, but I'm quite optimistic that's all they'll be. Trent's leadership and coaching has just gone from strength to strength over the last four years, and it's good to give someone like him the baby."
Rowe said they needed to rectify issues for the Hoppers clash, regardless of who takes the field.
Schiller and Killalea, Wiencke, Chambers will return, while Dore and Damme are possibilities.
"We look at our performance on its merits, and we're bitterly disappointed with it," he said.
"There's so many things that were unacceptable and not the way we want to represent our club in the top grade.
The worst offence was our ball use. We turned it over time after time due to bad decision making, or poor kicking preparation.
"Our ability to adhere to a slightly different structure to work around the players we had out was very poor, and our engagement off the footy was very poor.
"Coolamon has their own injury concerns, it's probably two teams who are a bit vulnerable, and who can handle that will be the victor.
"There's huge stakes for us this weekend. We've got injuries, we've just been flogged and we're 2-1. But if we can find a way to drag ourselves over the line, we're 3-1 with players coming back next week and sitting pretty."
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