AFTER winning the 2013 Central West AFL flag, a huge influx of new players and a lung-busting 2014 pre-season under their belt, many predicted the Orange Tigers would cruise through the early stages of the 2014 season.
With the quality of the recruited players in particular, some even suggested the potential of an undefeated season for the black-and-golds.
That prediction lasted just one game.
The Tigers easily accounted for the Cowra Blues in round one, but were outrun in a tough final quarter by the Bathurst Bushrangers two weekends ago, in a round two grand final rematch.
However, if Tigers coach Nathan Pearce is worried, he isn’t showing it.
“Of course it’s not doom and gloom yet, it’s only round two,” Pearce said.
“The real grand final rematch will be in five months on grand final day. If you ask Bathurst they’d say the same thing. The Bushrangers will take confidence away from beating us, but we know we’re a much better side than what we showed.”
Pearce nominated four aspects of the Tigers’ play on Saturday that led to the surprising loss; skill errors, bad judgement, inferior fitness and a lack of experience.
“On top of that we had five guys out who are crucial to our side,” he said.
“Our skipper Tim Barry is still recovering from a broken finger and Dale Hunter kicked seven (goals) against Cowra. Corey McKenzie, Josh Bubnich and Nick Goudie were also missing.
“I just don’t think the guys really coped without their leadership, and the inexperience showed.
“We made crucial skill errors in important sections of the field, and made some big errors - like kicking across the face of goal.
“We still took plenty out of it, we know what we have to improve on and we’ll do that.”
Pearce said he is expecting the quintet to return in round four against Dubbo, on May 3, and the club will welcome back a former star as well.
“At this stage all of them will be back, and we’re expecting Ben McKenna to come back in as well [after moving home from Melbourne],” Pearce said.
The Tigers’ round three match against Young for April 26 has been deferred.