During the first half of last season the fun factor just wasn't there for Orana Spurs.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
Players were missing due to injury and suspension, coach Ben Manson was absent after undergoing heart surgery, and inconsistent performances resulted in them sliding down the ladder.
While the team rallied late and just missed the finals, Manson said "it was just a rough year for Spurs".
Now, it might only be one round into the 2023 season but things are already looking different.
Spurs started the new season on Saturday with an emphatic 5-2 win over defending premiers Orange Waratahs.
It was part of an opening round Apex Oval triple-header that was largely successful for Dubbo sides.
Macquarie United showcased their new lineup and proved immediately they'll be better than the side which collected the wooden spoon last season as they defeated Bathurst 75 4-2.
It wasn't a perfect home treble though as Dubbo Bulls FC fell to a 2-0 defeat to a strong Panorama FC side in the afternoon's first match.
The slick performance from Spurs was highlighted by a Joel Tongue double but the most pleasing factor for Manson was the positive feeling around pre-season transferred into the opening match.
"They enjoyed themselves and I think that's something we forgot to do last year," the coach.
"I think we took it a bit too serious so seeing them enjoy themselves is exactly what you want as a coach."
Showing a bit more of a killer instinct in front of goal was something else needed after last season and the early signs on Saturday were exciting.
Jared Corby scored the opener via a corner and it wasn't too long before a fine run and neat finish from star midfielder Brad Boney-Chillie doubled the lead.
Tahs got one back to make it 2-1 inside the first action-packed 14 minutes but that did little to slow Spurs.
Arguably the pick of the goals came in the 23rd minute when Tongue smashed a sweet first-time shot from the edge of the box into the back of the net to reestablish a commanding lead.
Tongue grabbed his second late in the second half after a Tahs own goal to cap a promising showing in a new, more central position.
"It was something we lacked in the first half of last season. We couldn't put it in the back of the net," Manson said.
"But we changed things a little and Joel Tongue did extremely well. I was impressed and I don't think he'd played there before."
As well as his goal-scoring prowess, Tongue's relentlessness was also a reason for the change of position.
I just want them to enjoy themselves.- Ben Manson
Tongue led the press throughout Saturday's win and he and the Spurs forwards never allowed the Waratahs defence too much free time with the ball.
The result and feeling around the team reminded Manson and many involved of the 2021 Spurs outfit, which was top of the ladder with one round to go when the COVID pandemic arrived and resulted in the season being abandoned.
"I just want them to enjoy themselves," Manson reiterated.
"You still want to take it seriously and winning is fun too but I want them to take that pressure of themselves and enjoy the experience. It's not the be-all and end-all.
"Just playing at a ground like Apex is a fantastic experience and you're playing at a high level.
"But I do think if we can keep this side together and get most players playing I think we'll be able to do quite well."
Barnstoneworth beat the Parkes Cobras 1-0 in the weekend's other round one match.
Spurs make the trek to play Bathurst 75 in round two while Bulls and Macquarie United will both be in Orange to play Barnstoneworth and Waratahs respectively.
Panorama welcomes Parkes to Bathurst in the other game.
Reading this on mobile web? Download our news app here. It's faster, easier to read and we'll send you alerts for breaking news as it happens.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.