Melton South needs to start showing they want to play finals if they are to be any chance of appearing there, according to co-coach Sean Triplett, following a poor loss to Sebastopol on Saturday.

The Panthers – who were sixth going into the round and expected to easily account for 11th-placed Sebastopol – were unable to find their best football all day, and despite five goals and 10 clearances from star Brendan Fevola they fell to a disappointing 19.14 (128)-17.8 (110) defeat at their home base.

Triplett left no doubt about the feelings of the coaching group after the loss.

“We were terrible,” Triplett said.

“Our effort was terrible, our intent was terrible, and they wanted it more than us. It was the old Melton South ways, season on the line, a chance to consolidate a top-six spot and we serve up that to the bottom side.

“You get what you deserve in this game.”

It was goal-for-goal early in the game, with the Panthers holding slender leads at each of the first two breaks but unable to stretch away to a match-winning margin.

Momentum started to swing away from the hosts in the third term as the Kookaburras took the lead and stretched away by 17 points at the final change, proving to be a match-winning lead.

The Panthers were not helped by losing Daniel Vasjuta to a badly broken leg early in the third term, while captain Shaun White injured his adductor and John Kent picked up an abdominal injury to limit the run off the bench for the home side.

Fevola was brilliant all day, with 30 disposals, 10 centre clearances and five goals, but Triplett said too much was left to the former Coleman medallist.

“Brendan was probably best on ground,” he said.

“He’d get the clearances and then mark the ball back and kick the goals, so he picked the boys up but no one would get on the tram with him.

“We had some sore guys out there with injuries, but that’s not an excuse. I’m sure they [Sebastopol] had that too and that’s just part of footy.”

Melton South came back briefly in the final quarter, but the visitors were good enough to steady for their first win of the season.

Triplett said the message was clear with just a month left to grab a coveted top-six spot.

“That loss showed they don’t want to play finals, and they’ve now got four games to show us that they do,” he said.

“At our best we can win the flag, our worst and we lose like we did this one, and I’ll tell you one thing, the other clubs don’t want us in there.

“None of the teams in there want to play us because we have the firepower to win it if we get there.

“If I was a psychologist I might be able to work it out, but it’s a mind-set for this side and if the right Melton South turns up we can beat anyone and if the wrong one is there we can lose to anyone, as this game showed.”