THEY were wet and muddy, they were sore and they were beaten, but as the Bathurst Giants came together at full-time on Saturday it was clear they were united.
While the Giants had lost 9-4-68 to 7-7-49 to the Dubbo Demons in their AFL Central West match at South Dubbo Oval, the effort the Bathurst side showed was certainly valiant.
Given the number of those in orange and charcoal who challenged much more experienced Dubbo rivals, the beaten Giants still felt like they had taken plenty from the game.
"There was one of those photos I saw from the end of the game where the guys have all got their arms around each other and I though 'Yeah that typifies our culture this year'," Giants coach Mark Kennedy said.
"We are behind the eight-ball, we are the underdog, we are rebuilding, but they just do not shirk the contest, they will not give up, they're in-and-under quite hard at the football.
"So we are placed quite well, I'm quite satisfied with the two games we've had now, they've not been blow-outs.
"It's giving them a bit of resolve, it's making them hardened. We are just enjoying our footy, we are just going out there and going as hard as we can and see what happens and it's paying off for us at the moment.
"To have four players in there that had never played a game, this was their first year of football, and then we had three under 17s players - it was a great result for us."
There were huge efforts across the park in a game which the pouring rain made execution of skills difficult. Rugby league convert Bailey Waldron was a stand-out as he was named players' player
The former Western Rams junior representative was playing just his second game for the Giants.
"The conditions suited him coming from that rugby league background and just being fit and it was a bit slower because it was wet," Kennedy said.
"He just played so well, that hard run through the centre. He was backed up by Tim French and Bailey Brien through the centre and it was good, it nullified some of their set-ups in the midfield."
The Demons led by 11 points at the first change and as both sides worked hard to control a slippery, heavy ball there was still little in it at half-time as the hosts held a 4-8-32 to 3-5-23 advantage.
In the third term the Demons were able to boot three majors as the margin increased to 21, but still the Giants did not surrender.
Kennedy's men actually outscored the Demons in the final quarter. While ultimately beaten, they had a lot to be proud of.
"We did set up quite defensively to start with, I did put a lot of numbers behind the ball and it was quite deliberate because I knew Dubbo had some really good targets up there and it wasn't conducive in the wet to that dominant forward marking type contest that they want to play," Kennedy said.
"Our back line just stood up because we had quite a small back line - like [Ryan] Cookie, [Shaun] Noyen, [Damian] Cuffy, Zac Yandle and Jacob Molkentin - they were really good. We then played James [Kennedy] loose so we had a tall to go to the contest.
"Yeah look, I was quite impressed with the side."