There will be the usual opening day nerves and nobody has their full cast of characters yet, but both the new coaches of PGG Wrightson/Balance Taihape and Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist want to put their best foot forward at Memorial Park tomorrow.
Taihape are the legacy team because at 25-years-old, Steelform Wanganui first-five and 2017 club rugby MVP Dane Whale will step into his father Kerry's shoes as head coach, assisted by his 32-year-old captain Tremaine Gilbert.
Arguably the closest-knit squad in Tasman Tanning Premier, Whale said most of the core team of the past five seasons, which included being the 2016 runnersup, will front up again.
Kerry Whale, who built what was initially a young squad up by hand, had been looking to step away for a while, even last year, and with no other obvious candidate, Dane Whale will take on the role.
It's never easy to wear the coaching without the grizzled voice of seniority – instead asking your good mates to try a bit of dieting or give a little more effort more at training, but Whale says he and Gilbert will simply have to set the example.
"Me and big Tre have worked our way into what dad started.
"You've got the lead from the front, that's the only way you can do it as a player-coach."
Personnel issues have always been Taihape's achilles heel – rarely running a campaign with more than 20 players capable of player Premier level.
Whale said he and Gilbert will try to engineer enthusiasm around their small town – as the town has plenty of young men who would rather spend their weekends with a smoke and a drink than playing footy.
Around half a dozen of the Taihape senior squad, who were surprise semifinalists in the 2017 Senior competition, have spent time helping out the Premier squad and Whale is hopeful of bringing them up to the standard.
"Last year we probably didn't call on them enough, which is probably why they were successful.
"We got a good starting XV, it's just about getting some young boys wanting to step up on or bench.
"If we lose a couple, it's hard to find decent guys."
Veteran Tom Wells has been "popping in and out", although the first-five has added farming and family commitments, while the loss of prop Hadlee Horton who has moved to Australia is a blow.
However, the other key front rowers of Wiremu Cotterill, Dylan Gallien and cult favourite Ritchie Iorns are still there, with Whale joking the latter is not likely to do the typical Taihape 80 minute stint in his current rotund shape.
Jaye Flaws and talented winger Te Rangitapu McLeod are key backline figures, while Cyrus Paringatai will return in a couple of rounds after completing his recovery from shoulder surgery, as he currently trains with the team in non-contact situations.
Wells has also sourced a couple of young working men from France to join the club, although their grasp of English is pretty limited and they have been mainly on the wing for the Seniors.
Them aside, Whale is determined to continue his father's philosophy of building the club up with home grown talent, rather than sourcing imports to the union through employment opportunities, although he acknowledges those hired hands are very useful come the Heartland Championship.
"It's just not Taihape. Even if we had money, we probably wouldn't do it that way."
As semifinalists in the past two seasons, Marist are at a crossroads of their own as Jerome McCrea swaps the head coach role with Jason Hamlin.
Backline general Steelie Koro has taken up the player-coach position with Harvey Round Motors Ratana, while his heir apparent Mitchell Millar has headed north to join champions McCarthys Transport Ruapehu.
The plan is to secure an unnamed Heartland Championship level player from Buller, although the club is still working through the work visa process to bring him back from the Pacific Islands.
McCrea was also dealt a major headache when wider Wanganui squad member Lucky Ah Chong, who along with his winger brother Elijah seemed poised for a breakout year, suffered a knee injury in their preseason game with Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau.
A scan on his ACL will tell whether or not the talented loose forward is out for the season.
"We're the same as a lot of other teams, I think we'll have a full bench, but I'm not sure," said McCrea.
"It's a big ask going to Taihape at anytime."
While Taihape's front-row stocks are low, Marist has strengthened in the engine room with hooker Jack Yarrall's transfer from Kaierau and the return of former Collegiate 1st XV prop Cameron Nelson, joining Wanganui representative Viki Tofa.
In the new-look playmaking department, much will ride on the shoulders of 2016 first-five Sam Monaghan, who took a gap year to focus on his business.
"He's chewing at the bit to get back on the field."
Whatever happens, with fitness issues and gaps in the roster, McCrea wants what most Premier coaches will want this weekend – players using their heads and attempting to put their team structure together.
"That's all we can ask of them. Just to get going again."
In the other games, Ratana will host Ruapehu at their new home at Marton Park, Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri will face Kaierau for the second year in a row for Week 1 up in the Waitotara Valley, and Black Bull Liquor Pirates face Utiku Old Boys at Spriggens Park.