Despite an atrocious first half against competition favourites Mudgee Dragons, there were encouraging signs for captain coach Josh Starling as the Oberon Tigers went down in a thriller last Saturday.
In front of a big Oberon home crowd the Dragons skipped out to a 24-0 half-time lead before a rejuvenated Tigers outfit clawed their way back to within six points in the second half.
It was the Tigers' first game of the 2019 season and Mudgee simply blew them off the park in the first 40 minutes. The Mudgee pack was extremely busy early on and with a big slice of the possession was able to lay the platform for their very pacey backline to cut the Oberon defence apart.
With the heat and a string of penalties going against them, the defensive effort was sapping the Tigers' energy with the rampaging charges of tearaway Abel Lefaoseu the Tigers' only highlight.
The half-time siren was a welcome relief as Starling took his troops into the sheds to regroup.
Oberon immediately lifted the tempo in the second half which had Mudgee back-pedalling and under the pump. Hooker Richie Peckham heralded the Tigers' comeback with a trademark dash to score under the posts for Farren Lamb to easily convert.
With the Tigers now on the scoreboard at 24-6 Oberon was looking to ignite a comeback in the last 24 minutes, and the crowd sensed it.
As the new digital scoreboard ticked down the Tigers were throwing everything at the Dragons with Peckham, Starling and Jake Dawe leading the way.
New five-eighth Farren Lamb showed incredible acceleration and footwork to score next, converting his own try to have the Tigers poised to pounce at 24-12 with 16 minutes left.
Feeding off the home crowd's energy, the Tigers continued to lift and their tough pre-season training was starting to pay off as this time it was Mudgee who were clinging on waiting for the full-time siren.
New recruit Nik Booth finished off a Tigers raid with less than 10 minutes remaining as the prop forward crashed over to the roar of the crowd as Oberon edged within a converted try.
In the dying minutes, trailing 24-18, the Tigers sent wave after wave of attacking plays only to fall millimetres short of the line on a number of occasions. As the full-time siren sounded with Mudgee hanging on grimly to a six-point lead, everyone at the ground knew that Oberon has a serious football team in 2019 and with more game time under their belts coach Starling will have them firing.
The First Division side under new coach Joey Inzitari couldn't have been more impressive posting an emphatic 32-14 victory.
New front rowers Liam Walsh and Daniel Rodgers had powerhouse games as did locals Jason Corliss and Brenton Gibson. The Tigers looked dangerous with Caylib Marsten scheming at hooker and the big, new centre pairing of Elias Dukes and Ben Hews tearing into the opposition out wide.
The under 18s came from behind to stage a last gasp victory 12-8 despite having a player sent off in the first half with 10 minutes remaining and then having no reserves on the bench for the entire second half.
New coach Craig Smeed couldn't be prouder of his young team who displayed true grit and determination despite only coming together virtually the week leading up to the game. If the boys turn up and train hard they will make their presence felt.
New coach Tahlia Nugent's League Tag side were valiant in defeat going down 22-10 but showing plenty of promise.
The club sends our best wishes to Billy Walsh for a speedy recovery from a nasty broken leg suffered in the First Division game.
This Sunday Oberon hosts Orange CYMS. League Tag starts at 10.30am and Premier League kicks off at 2.15pm.