PORT Macquarie Sharks lost more than just the competition points in Saturday's 16-4 defeat to Forster-Tuncurry.
They finished the match with just 12 fit players following injuries to James Kelly, Mitch Smith, Brandon Phelan and Zac Flanagan.
But the most serious addition to their casualty ward came through centre Jayden Ehsman who suffered a dislocated C4 vertebrae in his neck.
Ehsman underwent surgery in Newcastle on Sunday and Sharks coach Ben Kirkland said it was unlikely his centre would play again.
I was talking to the doctor at hospital and our medical staff did a good job; they said he's a quarter of a millimetre off being something really serious.Ben Kirkland
"I was talking to the doctor at hospital and our medical staff did a good job; they said he's a quarter of a millimetre off being something really serious," he said.
"They're doing surgery as we speak and they've got to realign it and then fix the ligaments to keep it in place."
The Sharks were still in the contest and only trailed by eight points at the time play was halted, but they were never in the contest after that.
"We had a lot of injuries, concussions and I finished the game with 12, but that's no excuse and we still should have won," Kirkland said.
"I'd like to say a few more words about the performance with a few expletives, but I won't.
"We were very poor."
Kirkland put their disappointing performance down to an inexperienced team which he knew he had at the start of the season.
They key now was being patient as they looked to stop a two-game losing sequence.
"I think they thought we could just turn up and roll them, but Forster are a big, strong side and it didn't happen," he said.
We're just not mentally there yet.Ben Kirkland
"We dropped a lot of footy, a few calls went against us as they do and the boys got their heads down.
"We're just not mentally there yet.
"We're not getting through those tough times and we're relying on one or two blokes to dig us out of the hole and we shouldn't do that, we've got to do it as a team."
The 12-point defeat saw the Sharks slide from third position to being on the cusp of the top five.
"We've got to fix things pretty quickly," Kirkland said.
"They've got a bit to learn and they're really young so I've got to be patient and hopefully we get all our troops back and get everyone firing at the right end of the year."
Port Macquarie's task doesn't get any easier when they travel to Wingham next Sunday.
"Got Wingham next week so it gets a whole lot tougher again," he said.
"James Kelly is out for an extended period and there are a couple of concussions that I've got to monitor during the week.
"Brandon Phelan did his ankle, so we're not having much luck but we'll get through it."
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