IT was far from spectacular but reigning champions Western Suburbs Panthers are the only team with two wins after the second round of the Bundaberg Broadcasters A Grade Premiership after outlasting fellow first-up winners Easts Magpies 30-24 at Salter Oval on Saturday night.
Many had questioned whether the Panthers would be a force in 2014 after losing many of the members of their star-studded team of last year, including captain/coach Brent Kuskey, but with former club champion as a player and a coach, Nathan Tanner, returning to the helm, captain Josh Tanner leading from the front, stalwart front rower Leon Baldry again heading the artillery, the return of some former club junior stars and the addition of a couple of handy recruits, they are again shaping as contenders.
But perennial grand finalists Brothers, who had the bye in round one, proved that they too will again be in the thick of things despite the loss of triple premiership coach Dean Akers and 10 of their stars of last season, clipping Hervey Bay Seagulls' wings 34-12 after the Seagulls had blitzed Waves Tigers to open their account a week earlier.
However the biggest talking point is Isis Devils, who went into the new season as title favourites after many quality signings from both other local clubs and Samoa, being left languishing without a win after being put to the sword 44-22 by Wallaroos, of Maryborough, who had been soundly beaten by Wests in round one and had won just one match in taking the 2013 wooden spoon in a season from hell.
The Panthers put their stamp on their match by establishing a 20-12 lead at the break.
The youthful Magpies fought back in the second stanza, but Wests dug deep and regained control at 30-18 with six minutes remaining before their cross-town rivals picked up a late consolation try.
Teenage Magpies hooker Caleb Gazzard, who was recruited to the club this season, grabbed a double in a slick all-round display but the Panthers got home with six individual try scorers.
It was business as usual for rampaging Brothers captain, centre and Queensland Rangers representative Mat Templeman, setting the standard with two tries but workaholic second rower Joel McCrea was their Man of the Match, ahead of fellow club debutante and centre Jack Rangeley and club junior product and senior premiership player, halfback Andrew Cross in his return home after eight years on the Gold Coast.
It marked a winning A Grade coaching debut for Shaun Hobson, who guided their women to a hat-trick of premierships last year.
Club vice-president and team manager Jason Templeman said while they had secured two major signings in 2013 Bundaberg Representative Player of the Year, second rower Tyrone Hopgood, from the Seagulls, and McCrea, a Wallaroos junior who had gone on and played Toyota Cup for the Cowboys and Penrith Panthers and Queensland Cup for Sunshine Coast, they also welcomed back wing flier Chris Rose after three seasons with Wests, picked up some outstanding although unheralded signings in teenage backs Aidan Dempsey and Keane Gooch, Rangeley, a Seagulls product and A Grade debutante, and interchange dynamo Jake Bauer, a rugby union convert who also shone in his first game of league.
Templeman said front rowers Brad Jung and Quade McGrory and lethal lock Lewis Williams were also superb.
It was a similar story for Roos, shocking the Devils by forging to a 22-12 lead at the break and never relenting, with front rower Will Jung, a cousin to Brad, leading the charge with two four-pointers in a signature robust all-round performance.
Rookie Isis winger Mitchell Bartlett also crossed twice but captain/coach Simon Ricciardi has got plenty of work to do to get the team to gel, although they may have to start again as they have the bye this Saturday, before the Easter break, but they will then get the perfect chance to get their season on track when they take on forever battlers Waves Tigers on 26th April.
Wallaroos 44 (Will Jung 2, Eddy Booth, Daniel Gillen, David Ball, Brad Davies, George Major, Brad Gela tries; Roderi Gela 6 goals) d Isis 22 (Mitchell Bartlett 2, Liam Gooden, Tanielu Passene tries; Robert O'Donnell 3 goals).
Brothers 34 (Mat Templeman 2, Shaun Collins, Jack Rangeley, Brad Jung, Lewis Williams tries; Tyrone Hopgood 4, Nathan Moore goals) d Hervey Bay 12 (Clinton Horne, Darcy Horgan tries; Clinton Horne 2 goals).
Wests 30 (Willie Nagas, Waylon Eggmolesse, Jesse Tass, Blain Martin, Joel Fagan, James Prichard tries; Bevan Page 3 goals) d Easts 24 (Caleb Gazzard 2, John Akers, Nicholas Tanner tries; Robert Hughes 2, Zak Bainbridge 2 goals).