The stars may have come out to play but the Maitland Pickers left their A-game and discipline behind in a low-scoring 8-4 loss to Wyong Roos at Maitland.
The Pickers were particularly scrappy in the first half and only an encouraging defensive effort kept them to being just 4-0 down at half-time.
"We made 11 errors in the first half and gave away six penalties," Pickers coach Matt Lantry said of a far longer than expected view of his side's defensive capacity.
"We spent most of the first 40 minutes defending lacking a lot of field position, but to our credit we held Wyong who were grand finalists last year to one try in that time-frame despite giving all that possession away.
"That was pleasing.
"Not looking for any excuses but you play 27 players and it's hard to form any sort of combination or fluency in your attack because you have so many consistent changes happening each quarter.
"We had an improved second half, our error rate come down and we tidied our penalties up and we went 4-all for most of the second half until Wyong scored in the last 10 minutes."
The Pickers next trial is in two weeks time against Macquarie Scorpions but seven players will get a run in next weekend's All Stars game at Charlestown.
Among those will be Gary Anderson who keeps on elevating his status every outing to date this season.
Maitland's best at Hunter Valley Nines, Anderson again caught Lantry's attention playing in the centres, while last year's Pickers centre pairing Matt Allwood and Marco Delapena were impressive in the back-row along with Tyler Carter in his first outing of the pre-season..
"Gary Anderson was really good, really impressive. Matty Allwood was really good in the back row, Marco Delapena was quite good and I thought Tyler Carter gave us potency with his attack, he had some real good carries.
"A young kid from Dungog who played first grade at Singleton last year, Ethan Edwards was very tidy when he came on our bench after playing reserve grade.
"We will see where we are at in a fortnight's time but he has put himself up for selection, that's for sure."
Lantry said he wasn't worried about the result on the scoreboard.
"We will go into Macquarie now with a smaller number of triallists but today was about giving everyone an opportunity.
"It certainly blew out some cobwebs but we are not having any great expectations among our playing group in the initial period.
"It is going to take a lot of time to gel those combinations and the first month of footy might be a little bit uglier than what you would like but it is part and parcel of the process we need to go through to get where we want to get to."
Lantry said it was still not clear whether the All-Stars game would go ahead next weekend or how the Newcastle Rugby League season proper would proceed because of coronavirus.
"Heard mixed reports about whether the game will go ahead, it's the same as local footy. The games will potentially go ahead but not with crowds by the sounds of it," Lantry said.
"That's obviously a concern for all clubs because everyone bar Wests are reliant on their canteen, bar and gate takings.
"If you don't have those, the opportunities to generate money where does it come from.
"You don't budget for potentially playing a number of games without spectators.
"It will be interesting to see how Newcastle Rugby League handle it. Again the prospect is that it will be taken out of their hands in terms of what we can and can't do.
"How the game offsets the loss of income for clubs will be an interesting one.
"Time will tell, it's not anything we can control but whatever does get put into place hopefully it is only short-term if it is locking spectators out."
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