Saturday wasn't the bumper, all-action first training run Western Rams coach Cameron Greenhalgh had expected but that doesn't mean his confidence has taken a hit ahead of this year's country championships.
The first get-together for the Rams' senior men's outfit was at Manildra on the weekend but the pouring rain, combined with a number of players being unavailable this time of year, meant Greenhalgh couldn't put his troops through their paces as much as he would have liked.
But after receiving plenty of enthusiasm and interest from players across the region in recent weeks and seeing the group of roughly 15 at Manildra really put in, the coach feels he and the squad is in a good place.
"I haven't chased anyone outside of those blokes who put their hand up," the Forbes-based mentor said.
"A couple are unavailable through work or holidays that time of year but I'm still pretty confident we'll have a very strong side.
"There's size, mobility, skill, and some brains as well. It's going to be tough fitting it into a side."
Roughly 30 players are part of Greenhalgh's initial squad.
While the names won't be officially released until the final squad is locked in ahead of the championships opener against the Monaro Colts on February 28, it's believed there is a strong Group 11 presence in the extended group.
Greenhalgh singled out Alex Ronayne for praise and he is one of a number of Raiders who signalled their interest to wear the green and white this season, with the likes of powerful forwards Jack Kavanagh, Oliver Gordon, Nick Harvey, and Rob Mafi also expected to be in the running.
"He (Ronayne) captained Western against France a couple of years ago and he's jumping out of his skin at the moment," Greenhalgh said.
"It's fellas like that, who are leaders and give their all, that I'm after."
Desire is key for Greenhalgh and the attitude shown at upcoming training runs will go a long way to deciding who makes the final squad.
With almost no senior footy played last season and a senior representative side having not contested a country championships since 2016, the slate is relatively clean.
Players like Mudgee half and former NRL player Harry Siejka, someone Greenhalgh describes as a key player with a "good, steady head", were part of the Western side which contested the Presidents Cup but for many in the squad the country championships could be the first games played since 2018.
The coach's son, Nick, is another likely to push for a start in the Rams squad but the race for a halves spot is set to be one of a number of intriguing battles in the coming weeks.
Siejka has the experience at the top level and the familiarity with Greenhalgh and the Rams, while Orange Hawks star Willie Heta also represented Western last year.
There's a lot who could be in the final 18 who have won big games or who have been a part of big games.Cameron Greenhalgh
Parkes' Chad Porter has also represented Western at the senior level numerous times previously and wore the number seven last time when the Rams took on France in 2019.
The competition for a place in the forward pack will also be fierce given the quality of the Macquarie contingent, the experience and work-rate of players like Jed and Jake Betts of Bathurst Panthers, and the power of Ethan McKellar, Joey Hobby, and Luke Thompson.
Wellington flyer Will Lousick, Mitch Andrews of Forbes, and the ever-reliable Jackson Brien are among those believed to be in contention for the backline.
"Quality players are going to miss out," the coach said.
One player Greenhalgh is disappointed not to be working with is Justin Toomey-White, the Wellington Cowboys captain-coach and multiple Group 11 player of the year winner who will be away and out of town when the championships will be played.
Orange CYMS captain-coach and former NRL premiership winner Dan Mortimer is another unavailable.
But the coach is confident and is excited to think of what a Rams side with a strong mix of experience and youth can achieve in 2021.
"I think it can," he said when asked if this side can have a real impact on the competition.
"And I get that feeling from a lot of the fellas in the squad. There's a lot who could be in the final 18 who have won big games or who have been a part of big games and know how to win when it counts.
"It's a relatively young side too so if it's not this year then it might happen soon."
The Rams meet Monaro on February 28 at Canberra before taking on Greater Northern the following weekend at Tamworth.