With a shorter round one in this year's Baywide premier rugby season, competition looks fierce as new teams will be looking to push out rivals for a top eight spot and the chance to continue to round two.
After months of preparation, teams will start their men's 2019 Baywide club rugby campaign today.
Among the 12 teams contesting a place in the top eight in round one of the premier competition are Te Teko, Ōpōtiki and Rangiuru - the first time back in the top tier of the competition for each of them some years.
Bay of Plenty Rugby's rugby operations manager Neil Alton expects the top two seeds, Te Puke and Te Puna, to remain strong this season but is expecting some close battles between the other 10 teams.
He says the traditional premier squads from Arataki Sports, Tauranga Sports, Greerton Marist, Rotoiti, Rangataua, Whakarewarewa and Mount Maunganui Sports "are all pretty close" and should expect some tough competition from Rangiuru, Te Teko and Ōpōtiki.
He says while the newer teams may find games tough, they'll also be hungry to kick their rivals out by the end of round one. This is just one of the many reasons Alton is looking forward to an exciting season.
"It'll be tough for those teams but I think they've given themselves a really good chance of being really competitive in that top 12.
"These new teams will be wanting to try and make the top eight."
On top of the returning teams, round one sees a modified format that will see nine games in round one instead of 11, which means teams will have less time to secure their place in the competition. He says all of this, on top of new players and new coaches, adds to the excitement of the season.
"I think it creates a buzz for the whole competition when there are new teams in there."
"We know that generates a lot of positivity in those communities."
"I'm really looking forward to seeing how Te Teko go," he says.
The modified round one followed a 2018 end of season review which included a Player survey and Sub Union consultation.
Among other notable changes designed to bring excitement to clubs and the season is five-times All Blacks and Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning sevens player Tanerau Latimer returning to Rangiuru as player coach of the premier side.
Arataki Sports' premier rugby team has adopted the mako as its icon and identity this season and coach Charlie Russell says with more than 20 new players joining the club they plan to be competitive, with an eye on that top eight finish after round one.
Today's match between Te Puna and Te Puke will no doubt be an exciting one, with Te Puna likely to seek redemption after their loss to the Pirates in the final last year, as well as first round bragging rights.
With a good chunk of Te Puke's 2018 title-winning squad back in Pirates' colours this season, player coach Matt Wallis knows his team will have the target on their back and is prepared with changes to bring unpredictability to the table.
Baywide Premier teams in 2019:
Coach - Charles Russell.
Coach - Kane Parker
Mount Maunganui Sports:
Coach - Reuben Parkinson; Assistant coach - Chris Elvin.
Coaches: Richard Howe, Sam Howe.
Coach - Atirau Ohia.
Coaches - Tanerau Latimer, Phil O'Reily.
Coach - Wayne Ormond.
Coach - Culum Retallick, John Dodd.
Coaches - Matt Wallis, John Corbett.
Coach - Aidan Kuka.
Coach - Anthony Studer.
Coaches - Peter Smith (Boxer), Joe Savage.
Today's premier draw:
Te Puna v Te Puke at Maramatanga Park, Te Puna; Arataki Sports v Tauranga Sports, Arataki Park; Greerton Marist v Rangiuru, Greerton Park; Rotoiti v Rangataua, Emery Park;
Whakarewarewa v Te Teko, Puarenga Park; Opotiki Rugby v Mount Sports, Princess S Reserve.