The departure of several hardened first graders has come back to bite the Warriors, says forward Micheal Luck ahead of their NRL basement battle against Penrith on Sunday.
The 15th-placed Panthers visit a 13th-ranked Warriors side whose slide in the last month has been the subject of much introspection.
Veteran forward Luck said the finger couldn't be pointed at any issue or person, believing heat on coach Brian McClennan was particularly unfair.
"The players are the ones out there making mistakes and missing tackles and making poor reads," Luck told NZ Newswire.
"And it's little things bubbling beneath the surface which at other times you might be able to patch up. But in the last few weeks they've manifested themselves more and more, to the point that we've lost some games pretty heavily."
Luck returned from injury for just his third appearance of the season in last Saturday's 40-point drubbing from the Cowboys in Townsville.
After their fifth-straight defeat Luck said it was now clear the club was missing players it had released last season such as Shaun Berrigan, Joel Moon, Brett Seymour, Lance Hohaia and Aaron Heremaia.
Tough hooker Nathan Friend was the only new signing of note, with the Warriors forced to turn to their under-20 talent when significant injuries struck the likes of Luck, Sam Rapira, Jacob Lillyman, Jerome Ropati and, more recently, captain Simon Mannering.
"We lost a lot of experience from last year - guys who weren't superstars but they were all good first-graders that win you footy games," Luck said.
"It's hard to replace. As much potential and talent as you've got in the world, I think it's experience and cool heads under pressure that we've missed."
Luck admitted the mood around the changing sheds had sunk but the attitude had improved as this week went on.
He didn't feel frustration that he would leave the club on a low ebb when he farewells them next month.
Instead, he was encouraged that a vastly improved campaign loomed in 2013.
Wigan halfback Thomas Leuluai and Melbourne Storm pair Dane Nielsen and Todd Lowrie would boost experience while the youngsters pushed onto the big stage this season could only benefit."While it's hard to say now, I'm pretty confident everyone in the club will be better for going through this. It's how you come out the other side of it," Luck said.