GLADSTONE Brothers may have blown out the candles early on the Bluff Rabbitohs inaugural Nines party but captain Chris Conway is only looking at the positives.
The Central Highlands premiers went down to 22-20 in a final that could easily have gone in their favour after being the standout team in the pool matches.
"We know where we are and what we have to work on now," Conway said.
"We are pretty happy with the performances, just have to improve match fitness.
"By the fifth game we were cramping up and finding niggles and that," he said.
"Gladstone were a young side but an experienced one - in the end we only lost by a try under the posts.
"It was certainly good to get wins over the Rocky and Gladstone boys - the whole carnival was a gauge to see where we are at - and we are really happy."
Bluff's astute tactics nearly delivered the perfect script.
They played fast football but importantly that played smart football as Conway explained.
"We haven't really played Nines much before but it is similar to touch football," he said.
"It was definitely a lot quicker and faster than normal footy so it made a really good challenge.
"Peter McLaughlin, Dane Heron and Keagan Freeman are all experienced touch players and they just relished up the middle and got plenty of points.
"They would just ruck up the middle with their speed and agility, it was risk free," Conway said.
"But the big forwards did their job too.
"Justin Daniels, Matt Charles and Billy and Benny Byrne got big metres and were hard in defence."
With less than two months till the season opener, time is on Bluff's side to ensure they are at their peak fitness levels.
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