Bay of Plenty Steamers head coach Clayton McMillan has named his 2019 Mitre 10 Cup squad and it is packed with an exciting mixture of youth and experience.
After finishing fifth and missing the semifinals in the Championship last year, starting the season with the right set of players is crucial.
One thing the Steamers won't be short of this season is pace out wide. The likes of Chase Tiatia, Joe Webber, Joe Ravouvou, Emoni Narawa and Mathew Skipwith-Garland all have the sort of x-factor which can turn a game on its head and are facing a fierce battle for starting spots.
Rotorua's Skipwith-Garland, who plays club rugby for Whakarewarewa, was approaching his best form when a hamstring injury ruled him out for the second half of last season.
This is his third season with the side and he is chomping at the bit to get back on the field.
It's always a healthy environment when you have competition in your position.
"We were playing a home game against Manawatu in Rotorua last year and I tore my hammy so I missed the last three to four games. It was a bit unlucky but I'm rearing to go now.
"I'm back to full fitness, my body's feeling good. I worked pretty hard in the off-season to get my body right so hopefully injury-free this year."
He said the competition for places in this year's side would get the most out of the players.
"There are a lot of young guys coming through, some out of the New Zealand under-20s, so it keeps us on our toes. It's always a healthy environment when you have competition in your position.
"We've played two pre-season games and been together quite a while now. Our main focus was to build a good culture firstly. If we're good off the field, we're good on the field."
The Steamers start their season against Otago at the Tauranga Domain on Sunday, kickoff is at 2.05pm.
Mix of youth and experience in Steamers squad
The Selection Process
With players moving on at the end of the previous season, others returning and already on contracts and others fighting to renew contracts, a lot goes in to selecting a Mitre 10 Cup squad.
McMillan said the first thing he needed to see in potential squad members was that they would be able to handle the step up to Mitre 10 Cup rugby.
"We try to assess as best we can people's ability to be able to compete at this level. Sometimes what we see and what other people see isn't always aligned but we have a profile of what sort of game we want to play and the team we want to play that game.
"In this environment, there isn't a lot of room for passengers. We need people who are good learners, self-motivated and are highly motivated to succeed."
He said when it came to Mitre 10 Cup contracts, there was a competitive market.
"You have to lock in early the people you are 100 per cent convinced will add value the following season or seasons, otherwise they're at risk of being plucked by other provincial unions or overseas.
"When there's space in the roster, we work really hard over a 12-month period to identify who the contenders are. We regularly assess them through club rugby, high performance training and testing.
"The reality is there is a big jump between club level and Mitre 10 Cup level. If people are consistent in their performances and they hang around, their opportunities will come."
2019 Bay of Plenty squad:
Alex Ainley, Hugh Blake, Luke Campbell, Sam Cane, Aaron Carroll, Leroy Carter, Pryor Collier, Kurt Eklund, Chris Eves, Cole Forbes, Fa'asiu Fuatai, Mathew Skipwith-Garland, Ross Geldenhuys, Nathan Harris, Dan Hollinshead, Joe Johnston, Richard Judd, Mitchell Karpik, Lalomilo Lalomilo, Tevita Mafileo, Hoani Matenga, Tom McHugh, Ajay Mua, Emoni Narawa, Abraham Papali'i, Liam Polwart, Joe Ravouvou, Jason Robertson, Aidan Ross, Jeff Thwaites, Chase Tiatia, Kaleb Trask, Stan van den Hoven, Nathan Vella, Baden Wardlaw, Joe Webber, Archie White.