While Wagga came away with the win in the end, Leeton-Whitton coach Sam Darley felt there were plenty of positives to take out of the round one clash at the Leeton Showgrounds on Saturday.
The Crows were quick out of the blocks in the first quarter and went into the first break with a four-goal advantage, having held the defending champions goalless.
It was clearly a four-goal wind with the Tigers hitting back in the second term to take a six-point lead into the main break.
Another four-goal term from the Crows had them back in front heading into the final term, but the Tigers came out strong in the fourth to come away with a 12.15 (87) to 8.2 (50) victory.
Darley was over the moon with the way his side played in the first three quarters.
"We were probably four to five short of our best on the weekend, and we did run out of legs, but we lost a couple as well throughout the game, so to be where we were for three-quarters of the game was pretty pleasing, to be honest," he said.
"I know Wagga probably is the benchmark, and most people have them picked to be the benchmark again this year.
"The one thing I wanted to pride ourselves on was being hard to play against, and I think anyone that came to watch or even Wagga themselves and I know they made a few comments to Matty Rainbird and a few others up in the clubrooms after the game.
"They were really surprised with the side we had to play through blokes not being available with a couple of weddings and other things and the brand we played."
Darley was full of praise for some of the younger players on the side, some of whom were making their debut in senior footy.
"I know it wasn't Angus Crilley's first senior game, but he is still a young guy, and with myself getting tagged and probably Bryce O'Garey getting more attention, he was able to get off the chain throughout the midfield," he said.
"Hayden Cooper was probably best on ground for us, and it was his first game of senior footy and one year of footy prior to that, having been a rugby boy.
"Taj Doyle is another one who came in and played their first game or hasn't played many senior games, and to play so well against the side that is probably the benchmark that is probably the most pleasing aspect."
There is one concern coming out of the clash with a cloud over Matt Rainbird.
"He is going into the physio today," he said.
"I thought he just got a knock, so I thought it was just a corky, but I was talking to him after the game, and he said it happened when he moved and got tackled, so I'm hoping it's not too serious, but we will find out more over the next couple of days.
"He is pretty important to keep, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed."
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