New coach Babette Armstrong will look to the five returning players to show the way when Newcastle try to defend their NSW title at Gosford over the long weekend.
Newcastle claimed the open championship last year under Traci Baber and have Mikenzie McManus, Kimberley Williams, Katelyn Stansfield, Kimberly Goodearl and Ellie McVey back from their winning squad.
Souths Lions coach Trude Yen will guide Newcastle’s other team at three-day carnival, the under 17s.
Newcastle won the open and under-21 titles in 2017 but this year two open and three under-17 divisions will instead be held.
Armstrong said Abbie Gray had made the jump into the open team, while Georgia McVey was replacing the injured Angela Williams in defence. Erika Simpson is another addition to the 2018 squad.
She said the team were hopeful of a successful title defence and that their second clash on Saturday against Manly would be a key match.
On Thursday night, Hunter United went down 46-43 to Randwick in round nine of the Metro League division one to drop to eighth spot.
Coach Janine Hobbs said Hunter led by six goals at halftime but injuries in the defensive end proved costly.
Ebony Oakley missed the game with a back injury and Angela Williams returned from her foot problem to feature only in the final quarter.
“The girls did well considering the sickness and injuries we had,” Hobbs said.
“Our attackers played well and shot up around the 90 per cent mark.”
It was Hunter’s fifth loss of the season.