Coach says team didn't turn up with the right mentality to win when it counted most.

Neither Matt Elliott nor Elijah Taylor could deny it - the Warriors missed their chance to snatch an unlikely finals berth because of the top two inches.

When they needed to defeat the lowly Dragons, they faltered badly. When they knew their season was on the line, they played as if it was already over.

The defeat on Saturday may have ended the Warriors' faint playoff hopes but there was one positive, if it could be described in such terms.

The Warriors know exactly where they are lacking, and Elliott has a fair idea of what he has to work on during a long and rueful off-season.


"It's not a strength and conditioning thing, it's certainly not a skill thing or an ability thing," said the coach. "We've got to make sure our mindset is exactly where it needs to be all the time.

"So [the media] are surprised when we don't play well, and go, 'oh, god, I can't remember the Warriors doing that for a long time'."

They beat the minor premiers but were humbled by two of the bottom three sides. Winning seven of eight brought them to the verge of finals football, before three straight losses ensured they never got any closer.

"We've played outstanding against the good teams then fall short against the teams below us," said Taylor, who will be hoping to be free from such frustration at the Panthers next year. "That's been the story of our season, and it's the frame of mind we come into games with.

"As you saw, we've played well some weeks and haven't shown up the next week."

Wollongong in the weekend was a fatal time for such an absence and means the Warriors have nowhere to show next week, despite being widely acknowledged as a side no one would want to meet in the finals.

This was a different Dragons side, an outfit made to look mediocre by the last-placed Eels only a week ago, the same round in which the Warriors put 50 on Canberra.

While neither team played particularly well on Saturday, only for the Warriors were the stakes so high. Yes, as it happened, they would have finished ninth even with a win, but that was only confirmed 24 hours after they turned on a display which would be kind to call flat.

The players may have appeared crestfallen at the final whistle but the only emotion on display in the preceding 80 minutes was apathy. And that attitude was particularly cruel for Elliott considering he thought his charges were coming off their best week of practice.

"I didn't see it coming," he said. "But I think it was pretty evident we didn't show up with the type of mentality that we're capable of displaying, or have displayed this year."