New coaches, new players and a new year.
There’s been some hot-shoe shuffling ahead of what shapes as an evenly-poised competition, but come September who will be left standing to claim the crown in 2017?
The Herald takes a closer look around the grounds at the eight Newcastle Rugby League district clubs.
Coach: Adam Bettridge
Last Premiership: 1991
Last year: Minor Premiers (lost grand final)
In: Nathan Hinton (return), Brendan Worth (Kurri), Mitch Manson (England), Royce Geoffrey (England – Lock Lane), David Woods (Central Coast – Northern Lakes), Brad Russell (Lakes).
Out: Josh Schmiedel (Aberdeen), Sol Foster (Cessnock), Brock Harmer (retired), Joe Leighton (retired).
Bottom Line: Third time lucky? After consecutive grand final appearances the boys at Toronto are desperate to claim a premiership and former Knights player Nathan Hinton strengthens their chances.
Coach: Matt Lantry
Last Premiership: 2014
Last year: Third
In: James Elias, Uti Baker, Ben Stone, Mao Uta (NSW Cup – Knights), Ryan Walker (Kurri), Mick Deacon (Abermain), Gene Brown (return).
Out: Steve Gordon, Jake Finn, Tom Madden (Central), Ryan Walsh, Grant Walsh (Kurri).
Bottom Line: First-year Rosellas coach Matt Lantry has brought along a few handy recruits from his days at the Knights. Will be there-and-thereabouts again after falling one short of the decider the last two seasons.
Coach: Craig Miller
Last Premiership: 1949
Last year: Seventh
In: Brad Murray (Lakes), Jake Finn, Steve Gordon, Tom Madden (Wests), Dan Metcalf, Shaun Metcalf (Cessnock), Jace Delaney, Dane Cordner, Mitch Williams (return).
Out: Rowan Kelly (Hamilton RU), Riley Brown (Denman), Jordan Worboys, Jake Watts, Joe Woodbury, Cody Brooks (Cessnock).
Bottom Line: The biggest movers and shakers of 2017. The Butcher Boys have bolstered their roster considerably with Brad Murray in the halves, Jake Finn in the forwards and Craig Miller in the coach’s box.
Coach: Dean Noonan
Last Premiership: 2015
Last year: Fourth
In: Matt Hilder (return), Ben Tupou (Souths).
Out: Brad Murray (Central), Brad Russell (Macquarie), James Vaka (Southern Beaches RU).
Bottom Line: Any side with two-time NSW Country player of the year Chris Adams has credentials and adding former Knights utility Matt Hilder helps. But how much will the Seagulls miss Brad Murray?
Coach: Ben Cross
Last Premiership: 2016
Last year: Second (Major Premiers)
In: Jason Keelan (Hamilton RU), Lachlan Walmsley (Scone), Nathan Campbell (Kurri).
Out: Willie Heta (Orange Hawks), Todd Hurrell (not playing), James Taylor (QLD Cup – Norths Devils), Sam Cook (NSW Cup – Warriors), Ben Tupou (Lakes), Marcus Boyle (The Waratahs RU).
Bottom Line: The loss of classy playmaker Willie Heta will hurt the Lions, who last year won their first title since 1989. New mentor, former NRL prop Ben Cross, will be keen to put his own stamp on proceedings.
Coach: Trevor Ott
Last Premiership: 2011
Last year: Eighth
In: Luke Dorn (English Super League – Castleford), Dane Tilse (English Super League – Hull KR), Ngangarra Barker (NYC – Titans) Jake Hawkins (Dapto), Mikey Dent, Kyle Weatherall (Sydney), Blake Birch (return), Trent Papa (Woodberry), Inoke Rokotolu, Elekana Laupola, Sevuloni Bailey (The Waratahs RU), Seveti Rabonu (Maitland RU).
Out: Tyrone Amey, Joey Morris (NSW Cup – Knights), Jayden Hocking, Eddie Tuilotolava (NYC – Knights), Steve Waetford (Denman), Zeb Luisi (Sydney), Cal Edwards (Cessnock).
Bottom Line: After back-to-back wooden spoons the Pickers have been bolstered by recently retired English Super League pair and Hunter bred boys Luke Dorn and Dane Tilse, but squad depth may be a concern.
Coach: Ron Griffiths
Last Premiership: 1995
Last year: Fifth
In: Mitchell Steele, Tyme Dow-Nikau (NSW Cup – Knights), Tyrone Walsh (NYC – Penrith), Ryan Walsh, Grant Walsh, Jarom Haines (Wests).
Out: Ryan Walker (Wests), Daniel French (Boggabilla Macintyre Warriors), Nathan Campbell (Souths).
Bottom Line: Livewire playmaker Terence Seu Seu adds an X-factor wherever he goes. Mitchell Steele and Tyme Dow-Nikau are back full-time, but will it be enough for the Bulldogs to make the top five again?
Coach: Steve Kidd
Last Premiership: 2003
Last year: Sixth
In: Theeran Pearson (South Grafton), Kurt Warden (NSW Cup – Wyong), Jake McNamara (NYC – Knights), Sol Foster (Macquarie), Cal Edwards (Maitland), Jordan Worboys, Jake Watts, Joe Woodbury, Cody Brooks (Central), Blake Andrews, Jake Miller (Singleton).
Out: Liam Foran (Aberdeen), Josh Dimmock (injured), Dan Metcalf, Shaun Metcalf (Central), Noah Easton (The Entrance).
Bottom Line: The Goannas have taken big hits with Liam Foran departing along with the Metcalf brothers, while hooker Josh Dimmock went down injured on season eve. Only just missed the play-offs last year.