THE Bathurst Bushrangers Outlaws are the first team to sit on top of the Central West AFL ladder for season 2019 thanks to a comprehensive 22-22-154 to 4-2-26 win over the Cowra Blues on Saturday.
Though the behinds count reflected some inaccurate kicking at times and the Outlaws conceded a number of 50 metre penalties at George Park 2, there were still a host of things to like about the performance.
The Outlaws' new recruits gelled well, they dominated the inside 50s, won more of the contested football than their rivals, and a number of players finished with impressive possession counts.
And while the scoreboard didn't show it, Outlaws co-coach Troy Robinson was happy with the way his players responded to a physical and enthusiastic Cowra outfit which never gave up.
It was the Blues' first match since a lack of numbers saw them withdraw from the senior men's competition with three rounds remaining of the 2017 premiership.
They were only able to bring 16 players across to Bathurst for the match, but Cowra veteran Chris Day had the honour of kicking the first goal of the season and at one stage the Blues led by 11 points.
"It's great to start the season with a win, but credit to Cowra because they came out hard," Robinson said.
"They kicked the first two goals of the game. They came out and applied a lot of pressure, they just wanted it real early.
"Credit to them, the scoreboard didn't reflect the pressure. There are some sore bodies and a few tired boys here."
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Keen to impress in their return to the league, Cowra started the game the better of the two sides.
But at the seven-minute mark as Cameron Richards kicked the first of his five majors, the Outlaws had the lead.
Peter Grundy shone in the ruck and Adrian Hickey kicked three goals for the term as the Outlaws opened up a 5-5-35 to 2-1-13 lead.
The Outlaws won the first centre clearance of the second term and went straight inside 50, Scott Jablonskis capitalising with a goal.
The next five scoring shots were behinds before Ben Horn found the hosts' seventh major to take them beyond the 50-points mark.
Cowra mustered a reply with its second goal of the match, but by half-time it was clear it was going to be Outlaws' day as they led 10-12-72 to 3-1-19.
Brad McLeish kicked Cowra's sole major after the long break and while the Blues tried to maintain the tackling pressure which had been a feature early, fatigue took a toll.
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The Outlaws pulled away as they kicked eight majors in the final term, one of which was the goal of the day.
From a tight angle at the edge of the 50 metre arc and hugging the left boundary, Grundy curled a kick back and over the reach of the Cowra defenders.
"I think our fitness helped, we had eight on the bench and that helped with a lot of rotations. We ran the day out pretty well," Robinson said.
"Once we settled down, the first quarter jitters got out of the way and we lowered the eyes coming forward, our skills picked up. I'm pretty happy with where they are at.
"We had six new fellas to the team who hadn't played before, so we're fairly happy."