Stuart Dew entered Saturday night's press conference with his head bowed.
Minutes earlier, a string of his Gold Coast players had filed out of their changeroom, speechless, barely able to make eye contact.
Sam Collins, Jack Martin, Lachie Weller, Alex Sexton, Jack Lukosius and then Jarrod Harbrow, one by one, looking at the feet of the teammate in front.
Not a word spoken.
Sean Lemmens was in a moon boot. Just two quarters into his comeback from an eight-week ankle injury the SUNS livewire had suffered a recurrence of the same problem.
WATCH: Pearce Hanley post-match
As a club, Gold Coast was shattered.
Leading by six points with 40 seconds remaining, somehow the SUNS lost to Melbourne by a point.
But Dew put on a brave face, proud of his team's tenacity and steadfast in his belief of their improvement.
"It's pretty raw," he said.
"Sometimes you're going to get a kick in the guts and sometimes you're going to sing the song.
"We can't be as simplistic as when we win we get belief and when we lose we don't.
"That's what we've told the players."
Gold Coast has now played in five games decided by a goal or less in the opening eight rounds.
It has won three – against Fremantle, the Western Bulldogs and Carlton – and lost two, against St Kilda and now Melbourne.
Nick Holman looked to have given the home team another memorable win, being involved three times in one passage of play starting at half-back before finishing off on the run from 50m.
"I'm proud they took them on," Dew said.
"We wanted to have a crack at winning the game, we didn't want to get to the end and think 'what if?'.
"It stings a bit though. We'll just pick ourselves up."
It was only 10 matches ago Melbourne had slaughtered Gold Coast by 96 points at the MCG.
This result was more justification Dew and Gold Coast's off-season overhaul was hitting the mark.
READ: Match Report, Dees steal the win
"I think the level of competitiveness is showing. They've got a thirst for it," he said.
"We'll work on our polish, we get that.
"We'd love to get a bit more reward for effort but that's a longer-term thing.
"The message is our whole aim this year is to lay a competitive foundation.
"Bar two results I think we've done that, last week against the reigning premiers and preliminary finalist tonight, pushed them until the end.
"They're playing for each other, that's one thing we're all certain of. The evidence is there."
Dew praised co-captains David Swallow (35 disposals) and Jarrod Witts for mammoth performances.
He said Witts had been sick all week, quarantined from the playing group, and battled Melbourne monster Max Gawn until the final seconds.