WAGGA Tigers star Jesse Manton is confident the club's artillery still to return to the line-up will hold them in good stead after a poor first half cost them any hope of testing Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong on Sunday.
Both teams were missing a number of key players in the Lions' 67-point round one win, which the Lions set up with a 12-goals-to-one first half.
The Tigers were without ruck Tom Osmotherly, Josh Staines, Lahn Shepherd, Lewis Waters, Nathan Cooke, Jeremy Lucas, Fraser Yates and Brayden Bigham for various reasons.
It remains to be seen how well they cope after the departures of some key players, including classy ball users Charlie Bance and Brendan Myers, as well as key position player Reid Gordon.
Manton featured in the Tigers' 2016 premiership, and won the 2019 Jim Quinn Medal after two years playing elsewhere before also starring in their 2020 AFL Riverina Championship flag.
He was solid in his return on Sunday, after managing just two games due to COVID with Sydney side Inner West Magpies last year.
He said a return to the Tigers suited his life off the field.
"I love the club, for a start, but also it worked well with my family life coming back here and the club was very supportive of that. That was big factor to come back," he said.
"I live in Kiama, just with work commitments I couldn't play but I'm stoked to be back.
"It didn't quite reflect on the scoreboard, we felt like we were in it and were competitive for the majority against a team most think will be up the top this year.
"With the 'ins' coming back in, it looks reasonably positive for us."
Some of the Tigers' debutants had some promising moments, with Crawford Wadley kicking a couple of goals.
"A few young kids will start to get a bit of belief with a few games under their belts. If us older guys can set a high standard, we'll all get through it together.
"It's not really about us trying to play taller, we try and play to our strengths. He (Lion George Alexander, nine goals) got on top of us a bit but we want to focus on our main attributes which is running and ball use, playing a fast game plan.
"We've got a lot of young exciting guys, we'll focus on that and try and shut down the areas where other teams can hurt us."
Manton spent most of his time up forward with cameos through the middle in his standout 2019 season, but will play primarily in the midfield this year.
"He adds another dynamic to our midfield," Tigers coach Murray Stephenson said.
"He's got some genuine liveliness around the contest. He's similar to (teammate) Jock Cornell, he's quite clean and polished but has got some real x-factor and is more dynamic as a goalkicking midfielder.
"Someone like Jesse who has played in the WAFL as a midfielder, you put your strongest players in where they can play their best footy.
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