A bumper crowd turned out at Hardinge St Oval for the practice match between local sides Deniliquin Rams and Blighty last Friday.
The two clubs battled it out in a ‘six quarter’ match, with both sides having plenty of supporters on the sidelines.
Rams co-coach Sam Hall said the night was a huge success.
‘‘There was a big crowd on Friday, with plenty of support for both clubs,’’ he said.
‘‘We were rapt to host Blighty, they’re a great local club and they played the game in great spirit.
‘‘There’s talks already that we’ll make it an annual event, where we’ll likely return the favour and head out to Blighty next year.’’
While scores weren’t kept, it was the Rams who got the better of the Redeyes on the night, with the majority of the scoring done at Deni’s attacking end.
Newly appointed Rams captain John Anstee was a standout at centre half back, while other leadership group members Ash Morris and Ricky Gittens were strong in the middle of the ground.
Former playing-coach Todd Gallagher, Hamish Ross and thirds graduates John Bowie and Ryan MacDonald were also touted as some of Deni’s better players.
For the Redeyes it was onballer Sam Singleton who was a clear-cut best on ground, playing the full six quarters in the middle of the ground, while young forward Darcy Morris also impressed.
Unfortunately the tune-up came at a cost for the Rams, with onballer Ollie Draffin going down with a knee injury early in the night.
Hall said that while Draffin’s injury was ‘‘devastating’’, there were still plenty of positives to take out of the match.
‘‘I was really impressed with Gags (Gallagher) at centre half forward,’’ he said.
‘‘Hamish Ross battled hard in the ruck as well, with Ash and Ricky benefiting from this in the middle.
‘‘John Bowie showed poise and dash out of defence and Ryan MacDonald’s pace out on the wing was outstanding.
‘‘With the work they’ve done at training and how well they played in the practice match, they’re a huge chance to be playing in round one.
‘‘Nick Howe was back for his first game with the club since 2015 which was also pleasing,’’ Hall said.
The Rams had a total of 41 players line-up over the six quarters, a big improvement on playing numbers from last year.
Despite the large number of players, Hall said the club is still hoping to see more new and old faces in the 2019 Murray League season.
‘‘The most pleasing aspect of Friday was that we had 41 blokes playing. That’s a big turnaround from last year and is a very positive sign for the club,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re not shutting the doors on players though as we want to make sure we’re well covered for injuries and blokes being away.
‘‘We have a lot of blokes vying for spots in the seniors, so the early signs of improvement in 2019 are good.’’
Blighty playing-coach Jack Tyndall said there was plenty for his side to take out of the pre-season clash.
‘‘It was a good hit-out but we still have a bit of work to do,’’ he said.
‘‘They were a much fitter side than us so over the next few weeks we need to improve on our fitness.
‘‘There were a few blokes that were forced to play the whole six quarters and they did an outstanding job.
‘‘Sam Singleton played all six quarters on-ball and still went as fast in the last quarter as he was going in the first.
‘‘He’s an absolute pleasure to play with. When I asked the playing group who was willing to play the full six quarters he put his hand up without hesitation.
‘‘Young Darcy Morris looked good too. He kicked the first goal of the game and played well throughout.
‘‘He’s been away working, so if he’s able to play like that with not a lot of training under his belt, I can’t wait to see what he can do with more training.’’
The Rams will have another two pre-season hit-outs, starting with a road trip to Barham tomorrow, before hosting the Billabong Crows on Saturday, March 23.
Tomorrow’s clash will see recruits Josh Whelan and Henry Johnstone have their first hit-out for the Rams in 2019.