The Glen Innes Celts may not have been on the right side of the scoreline in both the under 14 and under 17 fixtures on Saturday but, according to under 17 coach Glenn McConnell, they were winners in other areas.
Both sides faced competition heavyweights, the Inverell Saints, for the first round of the AFL North West season.
The under 14 side were defeated 9.5-59 to 1.3-9 while the under 17s were beaten 22.18-150 to 1.3-9 but McConnell was "really proud" considering more than half the team had never played Australian Rules Football before.
"All I can say, there were six players on that team that had never played before and they were up against a very quality side who know the game inside out and know how to play it, and the scoreline didn't show how the boys played," he said of the under 17s.
"They never gave up, gave it up 100 per cent the whole game, even when the scoreline was getting away from them.
"They were all happy and laughing after the game, talking about different aspects about what happened during the game."
He said the under 14s were just as gallant in defeat.
"I can't really talk on the 14s because I didn't watch most of it," he said.
"What i did see of the 14s, a lot of kids in that side who haven't played the game before.
"And the same thing, from what I did see of the game, they played really well.
"They can all hold their heads up high, they gave it their all and tried their best."
Under 14's Aaron Harvey echoed his thoughts.
"A tough day on the park for the first day back but they set themselves a task and applied themselves really well to the task," he said.
"A lot of positives to come out of the game and plenty to take back to training."
The Celts have been building an inclusive culture among their junior teams and are still hoping more players sign up.
Girls and boys can play in the under 14 competition while only boys can play in under 17s.
McConnell said everyone who plays is guaranteed plenty of game time.
"We try to make it fun. It is not too serious, we just want to get them involved in the game," he said.
He said there's no experience required and anyone interested is welcome to come down to King George Oval on Tuesdays and Fridays between 4.30pm and 5.30pm to give it a try.