THE FIRST match of the 2012 Northern Districts Rugby League season at Miriam Vale on Saturday will also mark the start of a new era.
The newly-formed Agnes Water Marlins will make their much anticipated debut against golden jubilee club Avondale, who are also fired up for a big season.
Respective coaches Geoff Fitzgerald (Marlins) and Mick O'Sullivan, who is also new to the Tigers, are both confident of victory.
The two clubs played their only trial matches against Bundaberg club Waves Tigers a fortnight ago with Avondale defeating the ATW reserve grade side 18-10 and Agnes Water gallant in a 24-18 loss to their A-grade outfit.
Fitzgerald said the Marlins were "looking good".
"We've got about 30 blokes on the books and 20-plus training and it's starting to come together quite well. The trial certainly gave us a really good idea about who plays where and we've got a couple of really good boys to put the team around," Fitzgerald said.
"We will be definitely stronger. We've got a few extra who were not in the trial who have come in, but we've got combinations worked out after that one game and it was a good hit-out for us."
Fitzgerald will not play for a few weeks due to a rib injury, but he named five-eighth Tim McIntosh, fullback Jason Sykes and co-captains, halfback Dave Lucas and front rower and club president Darren Brennan, as their main trumps, and he has backed them to deliver.
"Everyone is really keen to get that first-up win - we've got a big supporter base and they will come across and watch us play. And with the confidence we got out of the trial game, I don't think the boys will settle for anything else in all honesty."
O'Sullivan said hard-running centre Frank Primavera would be missing from his side due to work commitments, but otherwise, he hoped to have a "full deck".
"Our preparation has been excellent. We've got good numbers and the guys have all knuckled down for hard work and all are very keen. But we know it will be a tough game judging by what I saw of Agnes ... it will be a pretty even contest," O'Sullivan said.
"Obviously captain Corey Chapman is a key. He leads by example and he had a good game against ATW. He was cool, calm and collected. And Daniel Steemson can also be a bit of a force to be reckoned with on his day.
"But probably the biggest thing is the improvement in the young guys who have not played much who acquitted themselves pretty well against ATW ... like Andrew Schmidt on the wing, young Sonny Carmen who will only get better for the run, and Rudy Valzan in the second row."
"I went to a couple of games last year and I think we definitely are a better side. We have picked up the defence and we have worked on a bit more structure in attack."
But O'Sullivan is confident.
"If we play to our ability, we should come away with two points. It's just a matter of cutting down on mistakes," he said.
The match will start at 5pm.
Northern Districts placings 2011
Miriam Vale Magpies first - back-to-back premierships
South Kolan second - Last title 2004
Avondale third - Last title 2003
Gin Gin fourth - Last title 2009