Footscray has endured a harrowing opening month in the Rugby Victoria Dewar Shield.
The rebuilding Bulldogs were dealt a harsh hand by the fixture makers, facing the current top four clubs one after another.
The losses have piled up as a consequence.
The Bulldogs are licking their wounds after a 59-0 mauling at the hands of Harlequins at Henry Turner Reserve on Saturday – a loss that leaves them with 0-4 record.
Bulldogs coach Leni Tui is not dwelling on the first month.
He is optimistic his young team can begin its upswing now it has its toughest part of the schedule out of the way.
“Our next three games are against sides in the bottom four,” Tui said. “We’re looking to get a few wins.”
Footscray is a victim of its own development success. The Bulldogs have produced a number of players who have gone on to feature in the top four clubs that have given them headaches in the opening month.
“Those four teams are fairly strong and their recruitment has been pretty good because they recruit from us,” Tui said. “We lost over a dozen quality players going to other teams because we couldn’t afford it financially.
“There’s no point in complaining about it – we’ve just got to move forward and rebuild the future of our club for next year and the following year. For me and my coaches, we’ll build from what we have.”
While inexperience is a worthwhile excuse, Tui could not defend his players after their unacceptable performance against Harlequins.
Harlequins might be further advanced in their development, but what the Bulldogs served up was not true to themselves.
“It’s important that you turn up with the right attitude and the right energy and I thought we were a bit flat in the warm-up,” Tui said.
“We like to play a physical game … Harlequins is one of the best teams in the competition and they had a very high tempo and we didn’t switch on at the start.”
The writing was on the wall early for Footscray.
The Bulldogs broke down defensively and were made to pay.
“They found a lot of holes in our defence,” Tui said. “We work on our line speed, making one-on-one tackles and not over-committing to the breakdown.
“We failed to do that, especially out wide in the first 15 minutes when Harlequins scored three, maybe four quick tries by getting the ball away from the ruck so quickly and our boys were too slow to react.”
How quickly Footscray can turn around its form is dependent on whether it can get physicality back into its game.
The trademark Bulldog bite needs to return for Saturday’s trip to Power House.
“Footscray is known for its physicality,” Tui said. “That’s something we want to maintain for the whole 80 minutes.”