Former NRL and Super League play maker Tyler Randall gave the Maitland Pickers a lesson in top grade footy as the Cessnock Goannas ran out 40-4 win at Cessnock Sportsground in the opening round of the compacted 2020 Newcastle Rugby League season.
Randall's performance was all the more impressive with the five-eighth suffering a severe cork to thigh at the 15 minute mark of the the game.
"He (Randall) got a really bad cork about the 15 and probably should have come off, but he wouldn't and that's why he played at the highest level," Cessnock coach Todd Edwards said after the match.
"He is a dream to have in the club, the young blokes love him."
While the result was unflattering, Maitland's reserve team showed plenty of resolve and will be far better for the run.
Saturday's strong support cast included Seaton Reid, who was full of energy and enterprise at fullback, creative halfback Connor Kirkwood and front-rower Robert Tuliatu who led a dominant Goannas pack.
"The performance is a real credit to them. The boys have brought in, we've got a lot of new people but they've really brought into what we are doing," Edwards said.
"It's good to be back playing and back in front of our home people.
"I was especially pleased with our kids, we had some kids out of our 19s on debut including young Schoey (Jordan Schofield) on the wing and they just looked like first graders, like they had been doing it for years."
Working off a solid platform from the forwards, Randall guided his young team around the park and the Goannas crossed for the first try through Reid just two minutes into the game.
Eight minutes in and there were three tries on the board including the first of a double to Tuliatu, in his first game back at the club since studying overseas, and Group 21 recruit centre Hamish Wolfgang.
Maitland's Jye Bieman-King broke the Goannas' run with an 80 metre intercept try after he cut off a Randall pass.
Cessnock wing Schofield scored a try in his first grade debut and shortly before the break fellow youngster Harrison Spruce, playing at lock, also crossed for a four-pointer to give Cessnock a 26-4 lead at half-time.
Goannas centre Jesse Horne scored two minutes into the second half. Connor Kirkwood waltzed across the line unguarded courtesy of a superb cross-field kick by Randall at the 58 minute mark and Tuliatu got his second when he barged across the line under the posts two minutes after the drinks break at the 60th minute.
Maitland continued to battle throughout the second half, but just could not maintain possession or nail the last pass in try-scoring positions.
Edwards was delighted with the effort of his forward pack and paid special tribute to energetic fullback Reid.
"Their effort, especially from our middle, Joe Bromage, Robert Tuliatu and big Tom Baker I thought they were really good in the middle. Guy Thomson off the bench was enormous in his first game," Edwards said.
"It was great energy from Seaton, he is very aggressive, always around the ball. He wants to be better and always creates a lot of drama through the the middle because he is always real busy and always sniffing around that middle third."
The only downside from the match was a head injury to Nick Lawrence who left the field midway through the first half and didn't return. He will be tested before be cleared to play.
Edwards said the season would continued to be an education process for his young side and there would be tougher challenges ahead.
"Our kids are here playing footy, we're not here to win comps it's education and exposure for some of these kids to first grade footy," he said.
"It's was Maitland's second team today and we will come up against more first graders as we go but that's what this game is about you've got to be exposed to the highest level you can no matter how old you are."