THE Hunter Hurricanes will welcome back fringe Aussie Sharks player Gordon Marshall and stalwart Sean Bryant for the National Water Polo League season, but both will miss an expected fiery opening-round double-header in Drummoyne this weekend.
Marshall, a Hunter junior, has missed the past two NWPL campaigns while studying at and playing for top US college the University of California, Los Angeles.
The powerful centre-forward was an Australian youth representative and has toured and trained with the senior national team without holding down a regular spot.
He last played with the Hurricanes in 2013 and has returned to be part of Australia's build-up to the Rio Olympics next year.
Bryant, the twin brother of recently retired Hurricane Clint, is back after spending the past 2½ years in Canada.
Both are expected to be in the water for Hunter just before Christmas.
Hunter coach Al Caldwell said the return of Marshall was a huge boost to his squad and Bryant was a driver/utility who will add depth.
Former national youth representative Matt Skinner, who is playing US college water polo, is also on the Hurricanes roster but is not expected to play outside of a Christmas/new year break at home or a return for the finals.
Last year the Hurricanes made the play-offs for the first time in their 10-year history and finished with the bronze medal.
From that squad, captain Phil Reid and Clint Bryant have retired, while Chris Boyko, Jared Tobin and Nick Dempsey are not returning. Americans Connor Virjee, Nikola Vavic and Justin Parsons are also losses.
Australian junior reps Keenan and Mitch Marsden as well as Lucas Mackaway and Adam Golding have made the jump into the senior squad.
Hunter start their campaign away to the Drummoyne Devils at 6pm Saturday and 5.30pm on Sunday. The Hunter women's team do not start until December 3.
Caldwell expected an intense opening to the season against the Devils after their clashes last year, which included the ejection of Drummoyne's Milan Nesic and Teo Galic in a regular-season match.
Galic was red-carded for an alleged headbutt on Virjee and Nesic was jumping into Lambton pool to join the melee.
"That was the fiery match last year and also we knocked them out in the finals series to go into the bronze medal game, so there's no love lost between the two of us," Caldwell said.
"It will be an extremely tough game. They've been in the finals series the last five years and they have the same blokes as last year, so they won't be easy."
The Devils have Australian stars Aidan Roach, Mitchell Emery and Tyler Martin as well as ex-Aussie Sharks John Hahn and Samuele Avallone.
They also have European internationals Nesic, Galic and Rok Crnica.