After all the drama of the past three months, the St George Illawarra Dragons would have been relieved to finally take the field for their first trial at WIN Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
While the result was not of importance in the clash with Newcastle, coach Paul McGregor was pleased to see the side secure a 18-10 victory.
"It was good," McGregor said. "We got to use 28 players, I thought the first 20 minutes were really clean, we had really nice control on the ground, we ran some good shape and executed quite well.
"All in all, it's a trial, it's a build to round one. The boys are back playing, against opposition now other than themselves, which they've done for 14 weeks and it does open up a little bit of how well some players went for selection."
The trial, hastily relocated from Kogarah on Thursday, was the first opportunity for the Dragons to show off their new look attack and the early signs were promising for the Dragons faithful.
As had been speculated throughout the summer, the Dragons lined up with captain Gareth Widdop playing fullback, new recruit Corey Norman at five-eighth, Ben Hunt at halfback and Cameron McInnes in the number nine jersey.
While the combination clearly reflected their limited time spent together, Norman and Hunt combined well throughout the opening 40 minutes. Widdop's opportunities were limited, however he showed glimpses of what the Dragons hope to gain from his positional switch.
The move to fullback allowed Widdop to pop into the attack without the pressure of steering the team around the park, with one particular moment just four minutes into the match providing a taste of the team's attacking potential this season.
"I thought their [the halves] start was good and then we didn't play quick enough after that. I thought we were walking on to the footy instead of coming on to it hard and thus we probably didn't control possession well enough.
"It's only game one of a long season, so it's going to take a little bit of time."
It was Paul Vaughan who opened the scoring for the Dragons in the 14th minute, capping a fairly high-quality opening 14 minutes.
Vaughan was impressive in his first match since August last season, adding grunt to the St George Illawarra forward pack. Tariq Sims was also solid, while brother Korbin produced a quality performance in his first game in red and white.
"Paul was, for the first 25 minutes, the best player on the field," McGregor said. "He's come back real good. That goes to the way he's been training as well, he's had a major setback and we missed him at the back end of last year.
"His rehabilitation has been so professional, he holds himself to high standards and he's started the year as he finished before he got injured, one of the dominant front rowers in the competition."
The forward pack was missing a few key names, the most notable being Jack de Belin, who was ruled out with a virus earlier in the week. Questions have swirled regarding de Belin's eligibility to play after being charged with aggravated sexual assault in December.
The ARL Commission will meet on Thursday to determine whether the NRL's rules require updating from the current stance of allowing court proceedings to play out prior to discipline being handed down.
McGregor provided a statement that affirmed the club's support for de Belin's wellbeing throughout this period.
"I recognise the significance and importance surrounding the current proceedings regarding Jack de Belin and the allegations against him. There is a judicial process underway to establish a resolution to this allegation and dispute," McGregor said.
"Jack's welfare is our main concern and it is important that integrity and wellbeing are considered.
"If history and the past decade has taught us anything in rugby league, it is to refrain from making assumptions prior to legal proceedings being concluded.
"My focus needs to be on all 35 players in our squad and starting the season well for everyone associated with the Dragons and as such, I'm not interested in adding anything further to the commentary on this matter."
The Dragons went to the sheds on Saturday trailing 10-6, with the right defensive edge exposed on two occasions.
The second half saw many of the top players take a breather, with Widdop, Norman and Hunt all finished for the afternoon. That decision provided Matt Dufty with the opportunity to step up, and the fullback did not disappoint.
Playing mostly with reserve grade players, Dufty was busy throughout the second 40 minutes and was dangerous each time he touched the football.
The Dragons had multiple tries disallowed throughout the second period, however it was Josh Kerr and Mikaele Ravalawa who crossed for St George Illawarra, with Ravalawa producing a piece of individual brilliance to beat multiple defenders on the way to the line for the first of his two tries.
Ravalwar crossed for a second in the 77th minute to seal the match, with emerging youngster Tristan Sailor, son of Wendell, providing a handy assist.