The only thing standing between the Northern Swords and another win this season is getting the best players on the pitch, starting today in Wellington when they take on the Wellington Orcas in Petone.
Heading the challenge for incoming coach Mark Freeman is the unavailability of incumbent standoff Herewini Edmonds.
"We've got the talent in Northland, but the biggest challenge is getting it on the paddock at the same time as a number of players rule themselves unavailable due to family, work, or travel logistics," Freeman said.
However, he added despite the challenge, this season's team had some promise. "We've got some pace out wide with Tarau and Sharif Mangu on the wings. Helping this will be our experienced centre partners, Wiremu Te Iringa and Ross McFarlane.
"If our pack can get us in the arm-wrestle, we will definitely be competitive in this year's competition."
The Swords have eight debutants today, including Swords under-17s players Rikki Tarau, Kelsin Harding, and Daniel Fulop.
The Swords also have Piri Croft and Tumoana Halkyard at their disposal after they trialled for the Kiwi U18s - along with Fulop - and played in the Auckland Rugby League U20s competition.
The Swords' first home game is on August 31 when the side hosts the Counties Manukau Stingrays at Toll Stadium.
Elsewhere, the Swords U15s and U17s won't be curtain raising for their premier counterparts this year as they have done in previous seasons; with both age grade sides' national competition changed from a weekly one to a week-long national tournament at the end of September.
The U15s and U17s start their pre-season campaign this weekend in Rotorua where they will take on Coastline, Bay of Plenty and Waikato in a triangular tournament over two days.
Northern Swords: Israel Tahere, Sharif Mangu, Wiremu Snowden Te Iringa, Ross McFarlane, Rikki Tarau, Daniel Fulop, Samuel Henry, Christopher Apoua, Joel Freeman, Te Tuhi Tipene, Patrick Tane, Kelsin Harding. Reserves: Jordon Hool, Chris Mellar-Reynolds, Andre Lennox, Alex Salase.