Maitland coach Mick Bolch believes his core group of experienced players will have a point to prove when they start their Northern NSW NPL season against Valentine at Cooks Square Park (6pm) on Saturday night.
The Magpies, who had the first-round bye, finished third last season before losing to eventual grand final winners Magic in the semis.
They are expected to challenge for finals football again after retaining the bulk of their squad and adding Joel Wood, Tom Davies and Ryan Broadley.
With the likes of Wood, Matt Thompson, Carl Thornton, Andrew and Mat Swan, Ryan Clarke and Matt Trott, Maitland will field one of the most experienced squads in the league and Bolch expected them to be hungry for silverware.
"If we keep everyone fit and we're consistent, there's no reason we can't compete with anyone," Bolch said.
"A lot of the boys are getting on a bit and I think they realise this could be their last opportunity. You've got Carl, the Swans, Matty Thompson, Clarkey, Woodsy, Trotty, they are all getting the wrong side of 30, so this could be the last year that group could be all together, so they've got a bit to prove I think."
The Magpies meet a Phoenix side who started their season with a 2-1 win over Adamstown. Valentine finished last in 2018 but have added Ben Hay, Jacob Bailey, Brock Oakley and Brenton Olzomer.
Valentine coach Darren Sills said Olzomer and Paul had groin injuries and were in doubt for Saturday night.
Phoenix, though, have also picked up former Edgeworth striker Bailey Garland. The teenager broke into the Eagles side last season but he was set to play on the Central Coast this year because of work commitments before Valentine swooped this week.
Sills was impressed with the win against Adamstown last week, especially given the performance of Rosebud and his team's lack of preparation since the late recruitment of Bailey.
Also on Saturday, Rosebud host Weston at Adamstown Oval from 5.30pm, Hamilton welcome fellow first-round winners Lambton Jaffas at Darling Street Oval from 6.30pm and Lake Macquarie take on Broadmeadow at Macquarie Field from 7.30pm.
On Friday night, Charlestown upset Edgeworth 2-1 at Jack McLaughlan Oval. Oliver Smith scored in the sixth minute for the Eagles but Scott Smith struck in the 12th and 36th.
Live NPL on theherald.com.au
courtesy of Bar-TV:
Adamstown v Weston
Hamilton v Lambton
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