The Batemans Bay Tigers have a lot of work to do before round one of the Group 16 season after a disappointing trial-match loss to Crookwell on Saturday, March 9, at Mackay Park.
The Tigers were competitive in the first half, but a late fade out let Crookwell run away with the match in the second half to record a 20-8 victory.
A lopsided penalty count didn't help the Tigers, but their play wasn't good enough to warrant a positive result on the day.
The Tigers looked very different on Saturday, missing more than 10 players from their 2018 squad, and they looked like a side needing to figure each other out.
Fullback Tom Bollard, who spent 2018 in the centres, was the standout player for the Tigers, and new captain/coach Brent Pike was also impressive.
However, Batemans Bay showed some serious defensive frailties, allowing Crookwell to score two easy tries from set plays inside the 10-metre line.
New halfback Damian Bell showed some good signs, but also struggled with combinations, particularly on the right edge, while new hooker Nat Barnes was busy both with and without the ball.
The forward pack held their own against Crookwell, and new signings Jaden Clarke and Saimoni Buinimasi should walk straight into the starting 13.
Pike said he was pleased with how his side performed with limited resources.
"I was happy with the commitment and effort the boys put in," he said. "We only trained together properly for the first time on Friday.
"Each week we're getting someone new showing up, and we have to fit them in the side.
"For a team that only trained for 20 minutes together, I don't think we were that bad."
Pike is expecting a couple of new signings to come in to the club before the start of the season.
"We were missing three or four from the full squad, and they were key players," Pike said. "There's still a five-eighth and a lock to come, so a couple of ball-playing players.
"It would have been nice to get a first-up win here, but at the end of the day, it's only a trial."
Pike said fitness and defence would be the main focus at training over the coming weeks.
"We've got to work on our markers, and tightening up the A and B gaps," he said. "We were a bit unfit too, so we'll need to work on our fitness.
"We've got a good attack, but it's defence that wins games."