Shaw Cross Sharks will kick off their National Conference League Division One campaign with an away trip to Underbank Rangers tomorrow afternoon (2.30pm).
The Sharks had a disappointing 2016 campaign, in which they needed a last-minute try in their final game from Brandan French to avoid relegation.
The Sharks finished two places below Underbank last season, beating them at home and losing the away fixture.
Head coach Brett Turner is feeling positive about this coming campaign after a host of new players joined the club in the off season.
“Everything we have done in training has been very positive, we had a really good session last Saturday on the pitch and that has done us good,” said Turner.
“Last season there was a bit of negativity but that has completely gone, the players know we train for a couple of hours a week and while we are there we focus on that.
“We have got a lot of new players, most of which are very young and they have brought a lot of enthusiasm. Monté Gaddis has brought a buzz around the place, he is the most positive person in the world.
“We have also brought in a few players that have got a bit of experience, which is something that we have lacked at times in the past few years.”
Turner insists that Shaw Cross have set no long-term goals for the course of the season. Instead he wants his players to focus on short-term targets throughout the course of the year.
He said: “We are looking at things more short-term, rather than looking at what we want from the season as a whole, ideally we want to win three of our first five games.
“We have got three home games in our first five, we were really strong at home towards the end of last year and we want to continue that into this season.”
Last year was Underbank’s first in NCL Division One, where they finished just one point outside the play-offs and Turner is expecting a tough game tomorrow afternoon.
He said: “Underbank have a really strong forward pack, they play extremely well down the middle and they have a tight and narrow pitch which suits their game.
“I’m expecting it to be rough and tough, we have a few big forwards missing from our pack which isn’t ideal.
“However I’m happy with the team that we will take with us, it is certainly good enough to go out and get the win.”
Turner also gave praise to young forwards Declan Ellis and Tom Shaw, who have made the move from the ‘A’ team into the first team squad this season.
The Sharks will be without inspirational captain John Rourke but will welcome back stand-off Danny Flowers, who missed their last pre-season game with injury.
Shaw Cross were promoted to NCL Division One in 2013, but have yet to win a game on the opening day of the season, losing three from three, something Turner will want to put right tomorrow afternoon.