Ainslie's Jed Costigan and Ben Wharton of Sydney Hills Eagles compete for the ball. Photo: Jay Cronan
If it wasn't for Alan Ray, there would've been two-metre high grass and rabbits at Ainslie Oval instead of the Tricolours raining goals to honour his memory in a 59-point victory over Sydney Hills Eagles in the first round of the NEAFL on Saturday.
It was the perfect way to celebrate the renaming of their spiritual home to the Alan Ray Oval Ainslie, after Ray lost his battle with pancreatic cancer aged 82 last month, with a 27.11 (173) to 17.12 (114) victory.
After an even first half, the Tricolours cracked the game wide open in the third quarter and then finished it off in the last.
NEAFL Ainslie v Sydney Hills
Sean Ellis of Ainslie football club in action. Photo: Jay Cronan
Their recruits shone, especially Nick Salter (three goals) and half-back Jordan Iudica, and their established players were brilliant as well.
Ian Lawless, Aaron Vandenberg and Sean Ellis (five goals) were brilliant through the middle, underneath giant Mitch Mulroney, who clearly relished getting told he'd be first ruck this season.
Michael Lawless (five goals) filled the leading full-forward role vacated by Josh Bennett alongside Nic Paine (four), who unfortunately strained his hamstring.
They were hungry, ran in packs and were hard at the ball.
So were the visiting Eagles to be fair, but they couldn't sustain it for the four quarters.
With the result beyond doubt in the last quarter, one passage of play by Salter highlighted the complete package he brings after his six years with AFL club Port Adelaide.
He laid three or four tackles in quick succession before eventually winning the ball and shooting a handpass to Ellis, who weaved past a couple of Eagles and slotted the goal to make the difference 54 points going into time on.
While it was a fantastic start to 2014 for Ainslie, coach Chris Rourke felt it was only going to get harder from here, as it travels to Queensland to play Redlands next week.
"It's a 14 team comp with 14 very good teams in it ... I think next week is just going to get harder and the week after that is going to get harder,'' Rourke said.
"Hopefully we keep winning, it's a tough competition."
Turnovers were costly for the Eagles and coach Michael Sankey was confident a few key players returning next week, plus a bit more time for the squad to gel, would see them improve.
Adam Eckerman (three) and Scott Reed (three) provided a target up forward for the Eagles, while Kieran Emery started cutting off Ainslie attacks across half-back so consistently that Rourke sent Ash Harris to stand him.
It wasn't a happy start for Belconnen, which was thrashed by Aspley by 155 points in Brisbane.
The game doubled as the NEAFL qualifier for the Foxtel Cup.
While it was a massive loss for last year's eastern conference grand finalists, they were without their engine room with both Bennett brothers, James and Lexie, injured.