FOOTBALL: The Sunshine Coast produced a competitive showing against Far North Queensland at Bokarina on Sunday to provide its supporters with a glimmer of hope for next season.
The Fire was beaten 2-0 by the Heat, its best result in its past six outings.
For a side which is last on 14-team state league ladder through 21 of 22 rounds and reeling on a 17-game losing sequence, the weekend's outing against a seventh-placed opponent is some solace.
"It's a bit disappointing. There was an opportunity there to get a result of some sort but we played well,” Hardwicke said.
"The guys have never given up and always tried their best and I think it showed (yesterday). Cairns (FNQ) is a mid-table side and we when we do play properly we're not far off it.”
It suggests the Fire could yet re-emerge as a contender in 2018, when a relegation system is introduced.
"We're a bit more experienced for the younger players playing this year and if we can just strengthen with two or three extra players next year then hopefully things will be much better.”
Blake Howden received a second yellow card against FNQ while Tom Land got a red card after the sides came together late in the proceedings.
Zac Munster (work), Kurtis Modlin (concussion), Terone Wattegedara (shoulder) have also been sidelined.
The Fire will end its winless season against sixth-placed Brisbane City on Saturday.
Brisbane Strikers and Gold Coast are locked in a premiership race on 48 points.
But the former is in the box seat with a nine-goal buffer.
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