RIVERINA under-23 coach Jody Rudd remains confident his team can give next year's country championships "a bit of a shake" after late withdrawals hampered their preparation for Saturday's 34-6 loss to Western.
A number of Bulls players, including key playmaker Dylan McLachlan, were forced to pull out of game day as the Rams proved far too strong at West Wyalong.
Bulls coach Jody Rudd was pleased with his side's effort given the circumstances, and it also gave him a chance to cast his eye over some new talent before their country championships campaign begins in March.
"Considering the group was pulled together at the last minute if probably wasn't a bad hit-out," Rudd said.
"We competed with them for 20 or 30 minutes and couldn't go with their intensity from there.
"It was a good opportunity for blokes who haven't seen much of that level before to put their hand up and show what they can do."
Rudd nominated Young forward Jayke Hogan as a standout, while Leeton outside back Kirtis Fisher was also dangerous throughout.
"We've got a good squad of about 30 to choose from and probably half of them were unavailable," Rudd said.
"You can't expect too much, some guys haven't played footy for two months.
"Last year (in the country championships) we were competitive and looking at the squad we've got this year we can give it a shake."
The Riverina open team were level 6-all with Western at half-time thanks to a Lou Goodwin try, but the Rams drew away in the second half to win 18-6.
"We probably started a lot better than they did," Riverina coach Luke Berkrey said.
"There was a pretty strong win at our backs in the first half and we didn't make the most of our opportunities.
"We had a few things go against us in back end of the first half and having to defend our line so much gassed us in the end.
Berkrey said he's keen for more open representatives games to be scheduled in the fixture.
"It's definitely a good concept and hopefully we see a bit more of it."