Parramatta custodian Michael Gordon says the Eels found enough positive signs in a 17-4 loss to Brisbane on Thursday night to know they'll be a lot better next week and have a promising season ahead of them.
Nursing an impressive zipper-shaped wound courtesy of a stray boot from game-breaker Corey Oates, Gordon was upbeat as he praised his team's defensive resilience.
Of the nasty gash down the middle of his face now sporting several stitches, Gordon laughed off the jagged cut as "more annoying than anything".
"I'm pretty sure it was when Corey Oates went through. I tried to tackle him low and he slipped through and just the back of his boot flicked up and nicked me. It was completely accidental and nothing in it but it was a lot worse than I thought," Gordon told NRL.com.
The 32-year-old fullback required some attention and a bandage to get through the rest of the game but said it didn't hinder him throughout the night.
"It was just trying to stop the bleeding. I didn't realise how bad it was til I came off and the first thing I was worried about was whether they were going to have to take me off but there definitely wasn't any sign of concussion or anything like that, it was just one of those things, his boot just flicked me on the nose and it was play on, just doing the best trying to keep the blood away," he said.
"It kept weeping a lot and then it'd sort of stop and just kept opening up, it was just more annoying than anything."
The Eels would have headed into Thursday night with a completely new structure on both edges and in the spine even before the pre-game withdrawal of halfback Kieran Foran and the loss of five-eighth Corey Norman at half-time to a neck injury.
So to "only" concede three tries against the premiership favourites, who have a near identical side to last year's (James Roberts replacing Justin Hodges in the centres was the only significant change), is cause for cautious optimism – especially given the Eels were forced to make 60 more tackles than their opponents.
"There were some really positive signs there. I know the boys are disappointed, as we should be after a loss but there were some really good signs there and I think the year's only going to get better for us," Gordon said.
"We tried to simplify our game plan [with both halves missing] and it was just fundamental errors and that sort of stuff that kept killing us and we'll be better next week.
"There were some really good signs in defence. We got a little bit loose in patches but in general I thought our defence was pretty good. They scored a couple of pretty good tries and it was on the back of our mistakes and penalties so if we just tidy up a little bit of discipline and we'll be all right.
"It's something we've worked hard on over the pre-season and it was good to see the boys ripping in for each other. The second half was try-less for both teams so it was just one of those games where we dropped a lot of ball – not sure if it was us trying to force the issue but losing players and personnel, the structure went away a little bit."