New Under 20s Coach Willie Peters was impressed with the effort of his side in their first hit-out of 2016 on Saturday at Kirkham Oval.
Wests Tigers and defending premiers Penrith played out a see-sawing 22-all draw, as both sides exchanged the lead throughout the match before eventually finishing level.
It was an inexperienced Under 20s side who lined-up against the Panthers, as only Ray Stone, Jaleel Seve-Derbas and Mark McCormack had previously played for Wests Tigers.
Niall Walker, Jai Doolan, Daniel Roberts and Rhys Sciglitano scored the four tries for Peters’ side, with Roberts and centre Toa Mata’afa landing conversions.
Peters said the trial match was a good indicator of where the squad is at as they look to build combinations ahead of their first official Holden Cup match against New Zealand on March 7.
“I was really happy with the effort from the team on Saturday,” Peters said “We spoke about effort as the main area that we wanted to see and I thought we achieved that.
“In terms of execution - we weren’t great but that is expected at this time of the year.
“The main goal was just to get a few combinations going and as I said earlier I was really big on seeing which players were going to work hard for each other and it was really pleasing to see that most guys did that.”
With the trial match being the first game in Wests Tigers colours for the majority of the squad, coach Peters said a lot of the combinations developed quicker than he had expected.
“I was really happy (considering it’s a new team), even though it was only a trial you still want to be competitive.
“We put ourselves in a positon to win the game, and we can learn from that, but getting to that point was due to combinations working well pretty quickly.
“That’s the most pleasing part because we are going to improve; we have the Roosters this week and the Sharks the following week before we get into it.
“The next two trial games are important leading into Round 1 because we need to build those combinations – that’s the main focus.”
While Peters was impressed with what he saw against the Panthers, the former Dragons and Rabbitohs playmaker was hesitant to name standout performers from the match this early in the year.
“I really don’t want to single out one person - I looked at us as a team and all those areas we wanted to see such as effort,” he said.
“There were some individuals that probably were stronger than others but that can quickly change in a week so I don’t really want to single anyone out at the moment.
“I’d like to see them be consistent with their footy and then we can start singling out players down the track.”
“I spoke to (Penrith NYC Coach) Cameron Ciraldo after the game and he was like me, you sought of don’t know what to expect, but we were both fairly pleased in the effort and the standard of the trial.
“During the game at times there were a few errors but that is kind of expected at this time of year.
“Penrith are always a benchmark in this competition but for us it was all about worrying about ourselves and what we want to do.
“We will focus on that most of the year; playing the way we want to play and not worrying too much about the opposition.”
With a number of second-year squad members currently training and playing with the NSW Cup squad, Peters is confident that those players will bring both experience and a positive attitude back to the NYC squad.
“We are hopeful of getting those guys back the following week (for the Sharks trial),” Peters said. “But from a Club’s point of view we want to try and develop those guys so they are going back up to that level as quickly as possible.
“When they are at 20s level, they are 20s players, so we are looking forward to having those guys back and the majority will be on deck for Round 1.
“In saying that - the main aim is to try and progress them as quickly as possible throughout the year up to NSW Cup and eventually first grade.
“So as much as it will be great to have them back in a couple of weeks, it’s ultimately about developing those guys for NSW Cup.”
Kirkham Oval will again host Wests Tigers trial games this weekend, with the Under 20s playing the Roosters at 4pm on Saturday – followed by the NSW Cup side taking on Wyong at 6pm.
Meanwhile, the NRL side will travel to the Sunshine Coast to play the Melbourne Storm on Saturday.
NYC TRIAL MATCH – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6:
RESULT - Wests Tigers 22 (Doolan, Walker, Scigiltano, D. Roberts tries; Mata’afa 2, D. Roberts goals) drew with Penrith Panthers 22 at Kirkham Oval, Elderslie.