PORT Macquarie Dolphins coach Mark Champion has challenged his side to improve their effort levels in the final two weeks of their season.
The Dolphins slumped to a 111-57 defeat to Waratah State League division one ladder-leaders Tamworth on Sunday.
But it wasn't the magnitude of the margin - or even that they were simply outclassed at times - that disappointed the coach the most.
"They're a much better team than us, but that's still not an excuse to stop trying at times and not fight back," Champion said.
"It's not the score that worries me, it's those times when we just didn't look like we were competing."
Champion said while the Dolphins were still a young side, they had to "learn how to compete when it's hard."
They're a much better team than us, but that's still not an excuse to stop trying at times and not fight back.Port Macquarie Dolphins coach Mark Champion
"They're starting to learn how to compete when it's even, but you've got to learn how to compete when the other team is better than you because that's what the good teams do," he said.
"That's how you get better than the other team."
The Dolphins started the match well and only trailed 14-12 early in the first quarter before the Thunderbolts found their groove and the hosts couldn't go with them.
"This is the time for them to make choices about what sort of team they want to be," Champion said.
"Because if they're happy to go into next season happy to win two or three games, then they're a young team and they'll win two or three games easy, but for a lot of us that's not enough.
"We want to be taking a bigger jump every year so that in three or four years time we're on an even footing with teams like Tamworth who are there every year."
Champion said he asked a few challenging questions of his side in the huddle following the game.
"It's one thing to be able to say I want to be that good, but are you willing to do what it takes to become that good," he said.
We can't seem to hold the same level of intensity for 40 minutes of the game.Port Macquarie Dolphins captain Jake Wallis
"Five years ago Tamworth were a middle of the pack team and it's just consistency, effort, work and a great job by (coach) John Ireland that's got them to being year on year one of the best teams in the competition.
"That's where we want to be."
Captain Jake Wallis admitted fitness was their problem after an encouraging start.
"We can't seem to hold the same level of intensity for 40 minutes of the game," he said.
"We have to put in a bit more effort and even though we're tired and hurting we've got to push and tell the coach to sub us off so we can get a breather and send someone fresh on."
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