South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett says the huge number of players missing in Thursday night's loss to the Storm was no excuse, with the team threatening a poor performance like that over recent weeks.
While Bennett hoped the return over the next few weeks of a few stars would help the squad bury any lingering psychological demons from the 50-0 result, he refused to blame the outs for the performance.
"We probably got what we deserved," Bennett said.
"We've been heading that way in the last couple of weeks and managed to pull games out of the fire but they're too good for that, Melbourne.
"That's what I was on about last week in Canberra, it just got worse tonight against a really quality team."
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The patched-up 17 that took field at the Stadium Australia was better than what they showed, Bennett said.
"We mightn't have won the game but we're a lot better than what we played out there tonight," he said.
"We've got a lot of players missing so it's a different team when they come back into it but the team that was here tonight was a lot better than what they played so that's the issue right now."
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Halfback Adam Reynolds is the closest to a return with the pain management in a thumb issue holding him back, though he remained an outside chance of suiting up in round 10, according to Bennett.
The coach did not believe the injury toll had worsened against the Storm despite Origin duo Damien Cook (knee) and Cody Walker (ankle) each staying down after being twisted awkwardly in first half tackles.
"He's OK… They didn't play hard enough to get injured," he said.
Of a decision to substitute centre Steven Marsters in the first half for back-rower Jed Cartwright on a right edge that was being pulled apart, Bennett noted the situation didn't improve after the switch.
"It continued after he [Marsters] left, I can tell you, it didn't change much but I was trying to make something happen. Addo-Carr got five tries didn't he? Six? All down that right side," he said.