WOMEN'S NSW NPL
For close to a month the Illawarra Stingrays prayed they could finally return to the pitch, but after Sunday's match with Sydney University they may just wish they were given another week on the sidelines.
In one of the club's worst results in recent years, a noticeably underdone Stingrays outfit were demolished 6-0 by the Students at JJ Kelly Park.
Weeks of abandoned matches and training sessions had clearly taken their toll as the 2013 runners-up were handed their first defeat of the campaign in emphatic fashion.
"It was disappointing. It wasn't just disappointing for me, the girls were disappointed in themselves," Stingrays coach Graham Shaw said.
"We definitely weren't sharp enough and even some of that match fitness had dropped off.
"Sydney Uni are physical, strong and quick and they got us a lot of the time on the counter attack because our fitness just wasn't quite up to where we would like it to be."
The Stingrays had started the season with successive victories, including the notable scalp of the Marconi Stallions, but three successive washouts against Manly United, North West Sydney Koalas and Northbridge have caused the squad to fall well behind the competition eight-ball.
"There is nothing we could have done about not being able to train or to play," Shaw said.
"The players know that they have to maintain their fitness, not just at training. But it was something that couldn't be helped and it didn't just effect first grade, it has been the whole club."
Only the Stingrays' under-17s came up with a win on a torrid day for the club, which saw reserve grade also handed a heavy 5-0 defeat.
But with the first of their rescheduled fixtures on Thursday night against Manly United, Shaw believes there is no better time for the fallen giants to atone.
"It is going to be hurting them still, so hopefully they can use it as motivation to never happen again," Shaw said.
"The fact that you lose a game is expected throughout the year but to have them put six past you hurts that little bit more.
"Hopefully the girls bounce back and use it as a little bit of motivation."