The Maitland Pickers have gone from playing to cement a top-three spot to the possibility of missing finals if they do not beat last-placed Lakes United at Maitland next Saturday.
The Pickers disappointing run home continued with a 16-10 loss to Macquarie Scorpions on Saturday, the same team they beat 42-18 three weeks ago.
The round 13 win against the Scorpions which lifted the Pickers to third franked a gutsy and seemingly season defining 19-16 win against Kurri Kurri.
Maitland are now fifth equal on 14 points with Kurri but with an inferior points differential. Central Newcastle, who play the Bulldogs in the final round, have risen from third last to third and with 15 points are guaranteed finals.
The only saving grace for Maitland is that Cessnock's form is even more inconsistent than theirs and they are sixth on 13 points and have to beat South Newcastle to dislodge the Pickers from fifth.
"We spoke before the Kurri game about having to win to keep the season in our control and we did that," Pickers coach Luke Dorn said.
"We've had it our control the whole time since, but since that win we've been absolutely careless with it.
"We've had so many opportunities to be a top-three team and we haven't been able to do it.
"Next week there is a real possibility we could miss the semi-finals
"Where we are on the ladder is probably a very accurate reflection of where we are as a team."
Dorn said errors, penalties and an inability to defend against something that has gone wrong continue to plague Maitland and he had to ask himself again whether he was preparing the team properly to meet the demands of the competition
"The buck stops with the coach. The coach is responsible for making sure that losses like this and the fade outs we've had do not happen," he said.
"There's certainly something at my end that I've got to address.
"If we lose next week and Cessnock get home against Souths that's the season over which is hard to get your head around after where we were."