ROVERS captain Josh Crowe has vowed his troops will return fitter, faster and more determined when round one starts at Hinkler Park in four weeks time.
Last year’s bridesmaids, Rovers have not forgotten the pain of their 3-0 grand final loss to Cities and have used it as motivation in their pre-season training.
“That loss hurt and we don’t want to be in that position again,” Crowe said.
“They were the best team last year, but we know we can match them if we can be fit enough to stay with them for 70 minutes.”
Second had been a frustratingly familiar spot for the yellow and black, considering they were runners-up in the 2008 season when All Blacks sprung an upset win.
They inflicted some revenge on All Blacks by eliminating them in last season’s semi-final, but now they are gunning for the boys in blue.
Cities did not lose a game against a Bundaberg side last year, only falling to Maryborough’s Granville in the Premier League.
The speed of their forwards proved too much for the likes of Rovers, but Crowe is determined to fix that this season.
“They’ve got blokes there that could run two marathons and still want to go again, it’s up to us to be able to match that,” he said.
Niki Russell’s side is built around mid-fielder Crowe, attacking weapon Colby Zahn and full back Duane Pyke.
The trio will all return this year, but it is the improvement of others that will determine how competitive they are.
Braydon Graham, Simon Cutler, Haydn Lancaster and Ryan Lee are among the younger brigade.
“We need those ones to step up, that is how we will improve as a team and push Cities,” Crowe said.
Fresh-faced goalkeeper Eli Marsland finished the 2009 season strongly and is expected to take his place between the posts again.
Cities’ ranks look much the same as last season, with the speedy side intent on some revenge of their own.
Despite leading Granville in the Premier League final, Cities let it slip.
“Everyone knows it was the one that got away, so that’s what is driving us this year,” player-coach Mick Callaghan said.
“We can’t wait to get out there and give it to them.”
Cities will start their turf training next week, but have been in the gym for the past month.
“Everyone is keen and our junior numbers are looking good too,” Callaghan said.