PORT Macquarie Pirates came home with a wet sail to draw 20-all with Newcastle side Wanderers in their pre-season trial match on Saturday.
Pirates trailed 20-0 heading into the final third of the game before they raced in four unanswered tries to give coach Nigel Harding something to smile about.
Harding said there were "plenty of positives and plenty of negatives, but they're constructive negatives" that came out of the fixture.
"We came home strong and we were starting to implement the style in which I want to play and the boys were starting to see that it was working," Harding said.
Harding was pleased to see strong numbers turn out for the trial match which indicated depth at the club was as good as it had been in years.
"We're going to be in a position this year where guys that have played first grade last year might be on the bench in second grade," he said.
"We had 32 players registered and playing in a trial which is unheard of."
The atmosphere off the field was starting to change at a club that had struggled in recent seasons.
"I got the sense of a lot of club spirit right through the grades; there was a lot of people there in comparison to previous years," Harding said.
"We've been fortunate in we've picked up some quality players in key positions.
"Some older players have come back and that's generated a bit of a buzz about the club and suddenly we're going to have two good teams."
Harding admitted Pirates would start the season slowly due to a lack of trial matches, but they would still have a strong chance of featuring in the finals in the five-team competition.
"We're where we should be going into round one," he said.
"We probably won't be where we're supposed to be until about after Easter and in the first five weeks there's only three games so we might even use those as trial games.
"It's a five-team comp so we can lose all three of our first games and still make the semis."
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