A possible season-ending injury to Easts forward Matthew Zgrajewski took the gloss off the Tigers’ impressive 40-12 opening round win over the Mackay Cutters in Mackay on Saturday night.
Zgrajewski suffered a broken leg in the 20th minute of the grand final re-match and is unlikely to take any further part in the Tigers’ campaign.
Easts coach Craig Ingebrigtsen shared Zgrajewski’s pain, describing the popular forward as a “great club man”.
“He’s been outstanding for us and will be a huge loss,” Ingebrigtsen said.
Despite the early injury setback, the Tigers made a blistering start in Saturday night’s match. They were rarely troubled on their way to a 26-6 half-time lead.
“We went up there really determined to do well and we did,” Ingebrigtsen said.
“It’s good that we got that (grand final re-match) out of the road to be honest. I was just really happy with our application to everything. We applied ourselves to everything we did.”
Tigers hooker Tom Butterfield was at his dangerous best out of dummy half, while Jacob Ling caught the eye in his first match in Tigers’ colours after coming off the bench.
“He’s been outstanding since the pre-season. He’s loving it and enjoying his footy,” Ingebrigtsen said.
“I can’t fault him. He played about 60 minutes and got through a mountain of work.”
The Tigers coach expects the Cutters to be a much different proposition the next time they meet.
“I wouldn’t be writing Mackay off,” he said.
“They had changes in their squad and it just wasn’t their night.”
Ingebrigtsen is likely to bring Dane Hogan in as Zgrajewski’s replacement for next weekend’s clash against Wynnum Manly.
Former Jet Donald Malone is also on track to play his first match after missing the Cutters clash with a calf injury.
Mackay Cutters will head to PNG to play the Hunters at Kokopo.
EASTS TIGERS 40 (Eddie Tautali 2, Richie Kennar 2, Maeli Seve 2, Shane Neumann, Hymel Hunt tries; Cody Walker 4 goals) def MACKAY CUTTERS 12 (Justin Tavae, Doug Hewitt tries; Liam Taylor 2 goals) at Stadium Mackay.