BUNDABERG could have a gun side up its sleeve when they travel to the 47th Battalion Carnival in Roma later this year.
The representative side, which features the best players from Bundaberg Rugby League (including three Hervey Bay Seagulls), took on Intrust Super Cup side CQ Capras as the curtain-raiser to Saturday's NRL trial at Bundaberg's Salter Oval.
The Capras ran out 34-18 winners, but not before BRL's best took it to their highly-fancied opponents.
For David Pearce, the performance doubled as an audition for the April 30-May 1 carnival, and the coach was suitably impressed with what he saw.
"It is very encouraging," he said.
"I like to give the younger blokes a go - young Billy (Stefaniuk) was over the moon to be involved.
"We shared it around - the starting wingers played the first quarter then sat out the second quarter. They were all happy as they got half a game each.
"We took the opportunity to try a few different things."
The sodden Salter Oval track worked a treat for Bundaberg as their direct plan of attack took its toll on an increasingly frustrated Capras outfit.
"We had a few things up our sleeve. We thought they'd play an expansive game," Pearce said.
"I told the guys, while it was reasonable, to play the central corridor.
"We concentrated our efforts there and you could see (the Capras players) get more frustrated with each other every time we scored."
This game was never solely about the result: it was an opportunity for Bundaberg's best to test themselves against a higher-level team.
For Pearce, it was a chance to give his 22-man squad an extra boost of confidence ahead of the local season's start.
"The biggest thing here is those kids will grow from that experience, and that will help their club football and future rep games," he said.
"If a guy is good enough to play senior footy for his club and he wants to go further then why not give them a chance at this level?"
The BRL regular season will start on March 5 with a double header at Hervey Bay's Stafford Park.
Maryborough's Eskdale Park will host a double header the following week (March 12).
Bundaberg v CQ Capras
CQ CAPRAS 34 (Manase, Pickersgill, Henry, Virevu, Baker, Dela Pena tries; Dela Pena 5 goals) def BUNDABERG 18 (Stefaniuk, Carl, Otto, Stephen tries; Carl goal) at Salter Oval, Bundaberg.