EIGHT months after they sent the Bendigo Dragons crashing from the 2016 Gridiron Victorian playoffs, Northern Raiders have repeated the dose in this year's season opener.
The Dragons, who were coming off a third-placed division two finish last season, were no match for the runners-up at Tom Flood Sports Centre on Sunday, losing 18-0.
It was not the start new playing coach Matthew Plathe was looking for, but in many ways not unexpected given the influx of newcomers to the Dragons' ranks and with several others lining up in new positions for the first time.
"It wasn't the best start to a season but we have to realise that we have a lot of rookies taking to the field for us this season," he said.
"While we didn't get the result we wanted their were a lot of positives to take out of the game.
"Our middle linebacker Joe Hughes had a standout performance.
"He filled the gaps and made tackles where it counted.
"Our special teams units were also a real positive, giving us good field positions and stopping PATs."
The Raiders, as they did last season, proved a tough nut to crack, and according to Plathe look set for another big season.
"The Raiders are a team with a lot if veterans who have played together for a few years," he said.
"They took advantage of our mental mistakes and really worked well as a unit."
The Dragons get the opportunity to rebound against the Melton Wolves in Ballarat next Sunday.
With three home games scheduled in Bendigo this season, Plathe was pleased with the support from the stands on Sunday.
"Home crowds in Bendigo are always great, we have some of the biggest game attendances in the league and we really appreciate it," he said.
"It's great to play I front of friends and family, but even better when coupled with the support of your town."
In other games, Ballarat Falcons defeated Melton Wolves 13-12, while Western Crusaders II were too strong for Casey Cardinia United 24-8.
Monash Barbarians had the bye and will open their season against Ballarat this Sunday.