Albury Thunder will face a baptism of fire against two former NRL players in its first game in almost 20 months on Sunday.
Thunder didn't contest last year's shortened competition due to COVID travel concerns, so its last competition match was a bruising 17-10 loss to Tumut in the 2019 minor semi-final.
It will host Young, which is tipped as one of the favourites.
Naturally over two pre-seasons, the club has lost players from that gritty display, including rugged English prop Brad Nicholson (Coffs Harbour) and hard-running back-rower Liam Wiscombe (Wests, Newcastle).
However, the club has also signed a number of players, including Leeton product Ty Fletcher and former Welsh international James Olds.
"He's really quick, hopefully we can utilise that and he's played at a higher level, so we can use that experience to get some high quality involvements in the game," coach Adrian Purtell said.
While one Wiscombe has departed, younger brother Jeremy has forced his way into hooker.
"He's got a really good running game, he's quite instinctive, hopefully he can take a few carries on the back of some quick play the balls," Purtell offered.
"Some of the rule changes from the NRL are also in our competition so it will speed up the game and bring those smaller guys into the game a little more."
Wiscombe's inclusion means long-time rake Joe Lumb will shift to lock.
"We've lost a few guys in the forwards, so Joe's a high quality player who can play both positions," Purtell suggested.
Meanwhile, the Thunder will face three Cornish siblings.
Halfback Mitch played 15 NRL games for Canberra Raiders in 2014-15, followed by another five at the Roosters in 2017-18.
Given former Melbourne Storm star Cooper Cronk joined the Roosters in that second season, Cornish will have had no better teacher on playing in the halves.
His younger brother Tyler also played one first grade game with Gold Coast in 2017 and will play fullback, while five-eighth Nick rounds out the talented trio.
"The Cornish boys have been through the (elite) system with the Raiders, I think they're (Young) pushing for a premiership, so it will be good to see where we're at," Purtell revealed.
Group Nine enters a new era without stalwarts Cootamundra and Junee.
In a terribly sad, and worrying, time for the league, which has long been highly regarded for churning out future stars, like Peter Sterling and Steve Mortimer, only eight teams will chase the title.
Tumut and Gundagai meet in Saturday's grand final re-match.
ALSO IN SPORT:
The Thunder match starts 24 hours later at 2.35pm.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.