The Osborne Ostriches made a wonderful start to its Riverina Championship season with a hard-fought win over Wagga Tigers at Robertson Oval.
The Hume league defending premiers overcame a Tigers' fightback in the third quarter to win a bruising encounter by 15 points.
Most pundits expected Wagga (the reigning Riverina Football League premiers) to be too strong for the visitors but were proved wrong by the slick Ostriches.
Both sides went into the game missing several key players through injuries and also Covid-19 restrictions affecting border-based players.
Included in these banned players is Osborne 2020 appointed coach Joel Mackie who was an interested spectator at the game.
Osborne president Jason Gooden said while it is frustrating to not have Mackie it was a huge relief to just play.
"It was great to be able to watch some good country football and the standard of the game surprised most," he said.
"Most people watching the AFL in the first few rounds were noticing the poor skill level and we thought the same might apply.
"But the way both sides moved the ball around was fantastic.
"You never know how you are going to go but the boys really enjoyed it and have created a really good vibe around the club."
Gooden also said that at this stage it doesn't appear Mackie or any of the other border-based players will play at this stage.
"All we can do is follow the league's regulations and hope that the player restrictions may get lifted in the future.
"It was a funny feeling after the game when I said to someone - well one down and five to go" in reference to the shortened season.
Osborne jumped Wagga at the start to boot three first-quarter goals to lead by eight points at quarter time.
They extended the lead in the second term to hold a 15 point half-time lead with young 16-year-old ruckman Nick Madden making a great debut.
The second half was a cracking contest, with Osborne holding off several Tigers charges.
The class of former coach Matt Rava and the Perryman boys, Nick and Ed, lifted Osborne when needed to hold the Tigers out.
Duncan McMaster relished his new captaincy role with a great game, while best on ground in last year's Hume grand final Marty Bahr was excellent.
The game featured plenty of highlights with Will Ryan's huge hit on former Holbrook and Albury Tigers midfielder Jim Grills bringing the crowd to its feet.
Grills the Australian Polocrosse star was forced from the ground before returning to do some clever work.
John Buchanan booted three goals for Wagga who badly missed Jake Gaynor whose clearance did not go through in time.
Osborne was without plenty of talent with Jack Driscoll, Jamie Parr and George Alexander sidelined along with the border connection of Mackie and co.
In other matches, Ganmain Grong Grong Matong (GGGM) proved too classy for Turvey Park, running out 52 point winners.
The Lions should get former Collingwood and Henty star Sam Murray back for this week's game. His younger brother Nick played and kicked a goal.
Leeton Whitton held off a determined MCU Eastlakes at Mangoplah to win by 15 points, with former Lavington and Ovens and Murray star Jon Spina dominating.
Osborne makes the short trip across to Mangoplah this week, before its first home match on August 8 against GGGM Lions.