St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor admits second tier salary cap pressure is preventing him from swinging the axe on his underperforming side.
For the second time in as many outings, the Dragons had 30-plus points put on them in their 32-12 defeat to the Gold Coast at Jubilee Oval on Friday night.
Not only did it send them tumbling out of the top eight, it sent alarm bells ringing as they copped yet another resounding loss.
They have now lost four of their last seven, letting in 30 points or more on each of those occasions which sees them hold the second worst differential (-145 points) in the competition.
And of those three wins in that period, two have come against sides severely weakened by Origin - North Queensland and Melbourne - while the other was against last-placed Newcastle.
McGregor labelled the performance as unacceptable however admitted his ability to axe underperforming troops was limited because they had already stretched the second tier salary cap.
"We always talk about that but it's very hard when you've got a salary cap and second tier cap as well," McGregor said.
"We've already used 27 players so it's very hard to change it around too much.
"A lot of things come into play there so we'll just have to sit back and have a look.
"But to ask if I'm happy with tonight - no, I'm not."
McGregor said the rest of his side needed to take a leaf out of Tyson Frizell's book, who was the lone shining light despite backing up just two days after State of Origin III.
"He's certainly a player who can sit in that shed and be proud," McGregor said.
"The challenge for them is to put in some effort like he is.
"It's good for a young man to go out on a big arena on Wednesday night, with all the emotion behind it, and back it up a couple of days later."
The Dragons were severely weakened by the loss of Benji Marshall (hamstring) and Josh Dugan (broken jaw) during the week but McGregor said that was no excuse.
He said he expected Marshall to be fit to face his former side Wests Tigers next Sunday.