Jake Davis and Damien Doolan produced ironman efforts in the middle of the field to help lift a new-look Cargo to a gutsy 42-26 victory over Peak Hill on Sunday.
The Blue Heelers recruits scored a try each and battled through 80 minutes to headline their side's round one Woodbridge Cup victory over the Roosters at Cargo Oval, and new faces leading the charge looks set to be a motif we might see a lot from the light blues this winter.
First-year coach Anthony Redfern has picked up a swag of gun veterans to lead the Heelers' push back into Woodbridge Cup contention, with Matt Clarke, Zac Bohan, Sam Sweeting, Davis and Doolan all donning new colours in 2019.
But the biggest could debut next week against Manildra, with Redfern confirming the club has swooped on two-time Group 10 premiership winner Terawhiti Cooper.
Cooper is an out-and-out handful through the middle of the field and will land at Cargo with the view of leading the Blue Heelers to some silverware.
"TC, we're just working out when he'll be here. He'll be a good help for us," Redfern said.
"There's some really quality sides out there, Manildra and Trundle in particular, they're going to be tough to beat but it's a long year.
"We've just got to focus on ourselves and build some combinations and hopefully we'll be there at the back end."
Those combinations took an early hit on Sunday, though, with both Clarke and Bohan forced from the field with injury inside the opening 10 minutes of the first round clash.
The visiting Roosters stuck with Cargo throughout the first half and it wasn't until Mat Watson barged his way over under the sticks just before the break that the hosts secured some ascendancy at 18-12 up.
A trait new captain-coach Torin Hando will no doubt be thrilled with, the Roosters refused to go away, however, and that persistence was rewarded with a try right after the break through tall winger Jordan MacDougall.
The problem was Peak Hill just couldn't maintain that intensity for sustained periods.
Cargo hit back not long after MacDougall's four-pointer and tries to dynamic fullback Trey Lucus and then Jake Martin rocketed the Heelers out to a 30-16 lead.
It was a good gutsy win and it's obviously nearly a whole new team, so we're really happy with the outcome.Cargo coach Anthony Redfern.
Again, the Roosters hit back and drew within four points but late tries to Davis and then Lucus - his off a wonderful Jake Crooks cross-field kick - sealed Cargo a first-up victory.
"It was difficult, we made a few mistakes and a there were a couple of niggles out there but other than that proud of the boys, we did well," Torin Hando said.
Peak Hill has snared the services of Group 11 flier Blaize Fuller for 2019, he was particularly handy for Hando's tri-colours on Sunday.
"He's dating one of the league tag players so we scooped him up, a two for one," the 25-year-old coach smiled.
"Hoping to go a bit better than last year. It's a tough comp, and Molong's in it this year."
Redfern was pleased his side was off and running in 2019.
"It was a good gutsy win and it's obviously nearly a whole new team, so we're really happy with the outcome," the injured captain-coach said.
He's hoping to be back for Cargo's game against Molong in round four.
- CARGO BLUE HEELERS 42 (Trey Lucus 2, Jake Martin, Jake Davis, Damian Doolan, Mat Watson, Jake Crooks tries; Jake Davis 7 goals) def PEAK HILL 26 (Jordan MacDougall 2, Mike Hando, Torin Hando, Ricky Read tries; Jaleel Hando 3 goals)
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