THEY had been pushing each other hard as individuals at training, but on Saturday the Western Rams under 18s came together as a team to issue a warning to their Laurie Daley Cup rivals.
The Kurt Hancock coached Rams ran in seven tries to one in their trial match against Riverina at Forbes' Spooner Oval.
They didn't concede that try until the final 17-minute quarter and given eight members of the squad were absent as they took part in SG Ball trials with NRL clubs, the performance was even better.
"All-in-all I'm over the moon," Hancock said.
"Up until the weekend they'd been competing against each other as individuals, they'd been doing in-house trials and training and testing. So for me probably the most pleasing thing was seeing them go from working as individuals to really working well in a team environment.
"One of the big things we base our Rams on is that if you want individual success you've got to have team success, that's the way it goes. If our team is winning, we are going to get more people noticed."
Winger Lachlan Lawson and second rower Finn Neilsen both scored for Western in the opening quarter to set the tone for the trial.
Though some errors crept into Western's game in the second half, fatigue and heat playing a role in that, the way they stood up in defence pleased Hancock.
Even after they did finally concede, Darcy Leadbitter responded as he found space down the wing to ice the Rams' victory.
"They were really good, I was really happy with their attitude, their intent, there were some real positives to take out of that, it was something to really build on leading into the Laurie Daley Cup," Hancock said.
"It was actually a fair game of footy. The last two quarters we had a few errors and in that last quarter we had to do a whole heap of defence, we didn't complete very well in that last quarter, but their attitude with the D was great.
"I was rapt with what they put out on the field. Obviously it wasn't our best footy yet, but it was a real step forward to being competitive."
Their attitude has been outstanding and the playing group has set that themselves, I haven't had to do too much yelling and jumping up and down.Kurt Hancock
Though impressed with the effort of all 27 players who took part in the trial, Hancock was most pleased with how some of the younger squad members performed.
He knows it means he has "got some selection headaches coming", but it's a situation he's happy to have.
"I was really happy with some of the newcomers, like there were a few guys that trialled last year, they were a year young and missed out on the squad, but they've come through this year and they've just exploded," he said.
"Guys like David West, he had a bit of knee problem early on and I nearly left him out, but he was close to our best player. He was brilliant.
"Nathan Walker, he's from Condo, he's another one of those boys who played really well, Darcy Leadbitter from Forbes, he missed out the last couple of years but had a big game, Manna Dermott was good."
The Rams will have another trial this Saturday against Northern at Kandos which will help the coaching staff make a decision on the final squad that will go on and contest the Laurie Daley Cup.
Hancock will be looking for them to continue to bring the intensity they've already shown to that contest.
"Their attitude has been outstanding and the playing group has set that themselves, I haven't had to do too much yelling and jumping up and down," he said.
"We had a bit of a chat as a group about how we started last year, we were very slow in the trials and our training wasn't where we wanted it to be at and we sort of had to build into the competition.
"In a short competition like this you can't miss the jump. They've taken that on board."