Altona Roosters have endured a tough start to the new NRL Victoria first-grade season.

A new-look Roosters squad was dealt a heavy 60-16 defeat at the hands of Werribee Bears, the reigning champions, at Bruce Comben Reserve on Saturday.

While the scoreboard was ugly, Roosters coach Damien Riki was not disheartened.

“It’s our first hit-out together,” he said. “We’ve got half the team back from last year and the other half is new. We’ll pick ourselves up and move forward again … we’re going to improve in the next four or five weeks.”

Altona was competitive in patches and even on top at times, with Riki pleased with the way his charges fought out the game.

The last 15 minutes could be a momentum builder for their round-two clash with newly promoted Truganina Rabbitohs.

“For them to keep themselves in the game and come back the way they did late in the second half was pleasing,” Riki said.

Sulio Fifita was often involved in Altona’s more positive sets. The lock forward was busy in attack and defence. Front rower Owen Gilbert was a tireless worker, playing nearly the whole 80 minutes and picking up a lot of metres while sticking to his defensive responsibilities.

Altona captain Jackson Berchley was the other standout for the Roosters. The hooker’s leadership was on show even during the tough periods of play.

“He’s the smallest guy out there on the paddock, but you wouldn’t know it,” Riki
said.

“He was providing a lot of go-forward and his talk and leadership were outstanding.”