WHEN Mark Rooke took on the coaching role of the Western NSW Mariners FC top grade side ahead of season 2019, he knew that he would face challenges.
But in an honest admission Rooke has revealed he had not realised just how hard it would be to help the Mariners overcome their mental hurdles.
In recent seasons it is no great secret the Mariners had have issues with consistency. One week they would shock more highly fancied rivals with a tough, gritty performance, while the next they would slump to defeat against a team they were expecting to beat.
Unlocking the potential that clearly lay within the squad for 90 minutes each and every weekend proved elusive.
This season as the Mariners embarked on a new National Premier Leagues 3 bid, Rooke wanted to leave the past behind and start fresh.
But four rounds in the Mariners have nothing to show for their efforts.
"It's been a frustrating start to the season. We've had periods of games that have been really good and periods that have been really bad," Rooke said.
"It's a challenge, more challenging than I thought to be honest.
"One hundred percent it's a mental thing. The guys are speaking about it at training, how do they address it? What do they need to do? Communication is a big part of that.
"We are not communicating well enough in games, there are a lot of things we are not doing well and it's about game management.
"We've discussed it every single week, but our game management is just not good enough. We have moments that we are doing well in games and we are not getting on top of that, but in those moments when we are doing poorly in games, how do we get through those?
"At the moment our good is good, but our bad is really bad and there is no medium in the middle.
"You can see the scars from past years are coming back to haunt them every single time instead of just getting on with the job."
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This Saturday the Mariners will meet the Stanmore Hawks, a side which has a win and two draws from three outings.
Rooke hopes it will be the match where his men turn it around and it must begin with improvement in defence.
"We have the worst defensive record in the league and it's something not to be proud of, we need to address it quickly," he said.
"The team we are playing, they've only scored five goals, that's the same as us, but they've only conceded three. So they are in a far better space.
"We are always chasing matches because we've shot ourselves in the foot. Hopefully we can turn it around, you can see them wanting too."
The Mariners will take on Stanmore from 7pm Saturday at Arlington Oval.
Meanwhile, the Mariners are waiting to hear who their next round FFA Cup opponents will be after being handed a forfeit victory against University of Wollongong on Wednesday.
The Mariners began their campaign in the annual knockout competition with a 4-0 away win over the lower ranked Hills Football Association outfit North Rocks.
The draw dealt then them another lower ranked opponent in University of Wollongong, a team which opted out of the clash at Proctor Park.
Rooke has his fingers crossed the draw will again work in the Mariners' favour.
"All you've got to do is hope, and we are hoping, that each draw you don't get a fancied team and maybe you get one of the local prem teams that have gone through," he said.
"It's funny, a few big sides got beaten during the week in the latest round, Camden got beaten by a prem team but then you have someone like Gladesville Ryde Magic who did well against Sydney United, they only got beaten 1-0.
"It is the luck of the draw, whoever gets drawn out first gets to play at home. We will just have to wait and see what happens."