All teams in the first round of the 4BU/93.9HitzFM Bundaberg A Grade Premiership at Salter Oval on Saturday saw many changes from last year's outfits.
Defending champions Hervey Bay continued from where they left off last season, recording a 22-14 win against the Waves Tigers in their grand final return clash.
Many had expected the Tigers to be the benchmark and to go one better this campaign, but they have lost a string of stars.
Despite the Tigers leading 14-12 with 10 minutes remaining, new player and coach Jai Ingram scored the try to put the Bay in front before the defending premiers sealed the result with another four-pointer.
Hervey Bay were also without a few of their stars including Clinton and Terry Horne and Joel McCrea but even with their stars not playing, they proved that they are again the team to beat.
Beaten preliminary finalists Wests Panthers overcame the loss of nine players in the off-season, including a handful to Past Brothers, to face off against the Brethren.
At one point in the game, the Panthers had a 40-6 deficit against them early in the second half, but salvaged plenty of pride to go down fighting 40-22 at fulltime.
Past Brothers were well led and marshalled by high-class hooker Brent Kuskey who has also taken on the A Grade coaching position in the new year.
Captain and front row dynamo Kevin Sherriff also led from the front with a double, but it was their former Wests flyers; centre Quentin Olive and wingers Willie Nagas and Kane Chapman, together with young ex-Easts centre Sam Robinson who wreaked havoc every time they touched the ball.
Olive bagged a hat-trick of tries, whilst Robinson picked up his second double of the day after also achieving the feat in their 42-16 demolition of the Panthers in the Under 18s.
Full credit to Wests for their late fightback although they were aided by a 10-3 penalty count in the second stanza and 16-7 overall.
Last year’s whipping boys, the Isis Devils and Easts Magpies, both gave promise of much better seasons, each recording a win in Round 1.
The win was extra special for the Devils who welcomed back powerhouse lock and club junior product Jake Thompson who did not play at all for the club in a disastrous season last year.
It was clear from the first minute that Thompson was missed last year as he produced a signature sensational all-round performance including four tries in a 34-10 blitz of A Grade debutants Maryborough Brothers.
New fullback Andrew Lamkan also grabbed a double for the Devils who will face a sterner test when they travel to Eskdale Park in the Heritage City to do battle with a smarting Wallaroos this Sunday.
Easts, who are now coached by former Brothers premiership winning player and coach Matt Templeman, also showed some good signs in a tough 24-14 victory over the Wallaroos.
Templeman has also assembled a good new-look team including journeymen centre Danny Moran and explosive five-eighth Nathan Sullivan, who were two of three players who followed their coach from Brothers.
Each scored a try in their outing in Magpies colours with halfback Zak Bainbridge, who has returned to the Magpies nest after one superb season with the Tigers, adding great extra potency in attack as well as kicking four goals.
In the Bundaberg Women’s competition, Past Brothers started their title defence in style with a 56-4 drubbing of Isis in their grand final return clash.
The Brethren’s spine was instrumental with five-eighth Jaedyn Stibbards leading the charge with a hat-trick, captain and halfback Christi Chapman and hooker Judith Bust notching doubles and their fullback and former Queensland representative Kady Tinker also among the try scorers in her comeback clash after missing last season following major surgery.
ROUND 1 A GRADE RESULTS
ISIS 34 (Jake Thompson 4, Andrew Lamkan 2, Luther Thompson tries; Andrew Ratcliffe 3 goals) defeated MARYBOROUGH BROTHERS 10 (Sonny Appoo, Heti Kafoa tries; Luke Seno goal)
EASTS 24 (Danny Moran, Nathan Sullivan, Caleb Gazzard, Reece Maughan tries; Zak Bainbridge 4 goals) defeated WALLAROOS 14 (Josh Crowley, Jack Horder, Corey Hellmuth tries; Jack Horder goal)
PAST BROTHERS 40 (Quentin Olive 3, Sam Robinson 2, Kevin Sherriff 2, Rueben Olive; Tyrell Howard 3, Quentin Olive goals) defeated WESTS 22 (Ilaiasi Pongi, Raymond Zysk, James Prichard, Patrick Tanna tries; Corey Gough 2, James Prichard goals)
HERVEY BAY 22 (Ethan West, Joel Denduck, Jai Ingram, Steven Dwyer tries; Logona Vetemotu 3 goals) defeated WAVES TIGERS 14 (Chris Ford, Trent Seeds, Chris Georgiu tries; Arden Lankowski goal)
LADDER AFTER ROUND 1: Isis 2, Past Brothers 2, Eastern Suburbs 2, Hervey Bay 2, Across the Waves 0, Wallaroos 0, Western Suburbs 0, Maryborough Brothers 0
For all the latest information on the 2017 4BU/93.9HitzFM BRL Competition, head to the the Bundaberg Rugby League website.