While the Illawarra Cutters would like to be still alive in the NSW Cup finals series, they can be proud of their effort in their first appearance in this competition.
The Cutters went down to the Newtown Jets 36-30 in an elimination final at WIN Jubilee Oval on Sunday.
They completed the regular season in sixth place with the second-best defence record in the competition.
"It was a good year. Naturally we'd like to have gone further in the competition," Cutters chairman Sean O'Connor said.
"In saying that, in our first year in I thought our main goal was to make the top eight which we did. We achieved that.
"We built a good core group of players in our first season and a good core group of off-field staff.
"As a club we've come a long way in our first season.
Going into their first finals campaign, a spate of injuries couldn't have come at a worse time with a number of players either hospitalised, sidelined, late inclusions, playing wounded, or out of position.
"We had a lot of injuries leading into the game this week," O'Connor said.
"We probably had the worst preparation we could possibly have. For them to go out there and be up by 10 with 20 to go against a quality side - every one of those Newtown players was a full-time player.
"We gave it a shake but probably tired in our run a bit."
For a team which was assembled only last summer, it took a while for them to find their way.
Under the coaching of Paul McGregor it's been an enormous performance to make the finals.
Last December they didn't have any sponsors, a coach, or support staff. All the basics needed to form a footy club.
"It's a credit to the behind-the-scenes people," O'Connor said.
"We've got a good platform with Illawarra Coal sponsoring us to go forward for the next two or three years."
O'Connor said McGregor will be coaching again next season.
"He brings professionalism to the club and he brings credibility in a lot of ways," O'Connor said.
"The players all look up to him and those coming back from the NRL respect him which is really important.
"He's been around rugby league for a long time and played under and with some good coaches.
'He's up there with the best of them."
McGregor said the injury toll at the wrong time of the year hurt the Cutters but overall it was a successful first season.
"I'm impressed with the guys. Probably early in the year there was one or two games where I thought we quit in the game of footy," McGregor said.
"The worst thing ever for a coach is when his team quits.
"After a fair spray that didn't happen again.
"To win nine out of your last 11 games - absolutely outstanding to get that momentum. At one period there we won eight in a row.
"Every time the group got together they wanted to play for each other. It was a good atmosphere and it was like a family. To be successful you need that.
"Our 50th player was used today [against Newtown]. That's a lot of guys in one year in one team. Every one of them I thank because without them we wouldn't have got where we got today."
Testimony of how the players feel about McGregor's coaching can be gauged from tryscoring wizard Michael Lett, who scored an amazing 31 tries this year for Canterbury-Bankstown, and Illawarra and will play for the Cutters again next season.
"When 'Mary' says something you've got to do it. He leaves no stone unturned so when we come into a game we're very prepared," Lett said.
Experienced captain and halfback Jeremy Smith, who McGregor enticed to the Cutters in March, was a key figure in the team's positive attitude, progress and success.
"It was a privilege to be captain of the team and be around these young fellows," Smith said.
"Like I said to the boys out on the field, if you can learn from this season and take it wherever you go in your career, then that's a positive."