THE Hunter Hurricanes loom as the team to beat for the men's and women's honours in this weekend's Southgate Inn Carnival.
The Hurricanes will field a side in both competitions as they begin their build-up to the National League season.
"This is the launch of our pre-season. For the majority of the team these will be the first games they've played since the end of the National League," Hurricanes coach Daniel Marsden said.
That was back in May.
Marsden is head coach of both the men's and women's sides, and will also play with the men.
The former Olympian is no stranger to Tamworth. He was up here earlier in the year for a coaching clinic and played in the tournament back in its heyday, then with Balmain.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said.
And seeing how his charges fare.
"We've had a pretty good off-season. The majority of the players have trained right through the winter," he said.
This weekend represents a chance to put that training into practice and get back into the rhythm of how they play.
"It's an excellent opportunity for us to blow some cobwebs out," he said.
But they won't be quite at full-strength.
"Phil Reid our captain unfortunately can't come up and Mitch Baird was in the Olympic squad. He's still having some time off," Marsden said.
"(But) The core of our team in the men's for the National League is there."
The women will be missing some of their junior players due to the Australian Junior titles coming up, and South African import Sarah Harris, who they are awaiting her return. But they will still be strong with the likes of Australian Country women's captain-coach Ellie Singleton, and manager Chelsea Castillo and Australian junior team representative Montana Perkins.
She'll be one to watch this weekend. Another will be Brittany Tait.
"Unfortunately we're going to lose her for the National League for the next four years," Marsden said.
"She's been given a full scholarship to the US."
He mentioned Australian junior rep Emily Boland as another one of the stars, and expects the women to be pushing for the finals this season.
The men he has very high hopes for.
"This is the start of our campaign to win the (men's) National League," Marsden said.
"That's our goal this year."
The squad is quite similar to last year.
"We've got a nice mix of senior players and younger players that are starting to show their wares and pushing for Australian junior and senior selection," he said.
One of those is Nathan Power.
"He's one of the young guns, an exceptional talent and will definitely be pushing for senior men's open selection," Marsden said.
Another is Matt Skinner. He's preparing for the World Junior Championships later this year.
It's Marsden's second year coaching the men, and first year in charge of the women.