There's a back-to-the-future scenario happening at Oxley Vale Attunga, after a spat of players returned to the club this year to reinforce the new reign of returning coach Tim Coates.
A number of those players were in action in a round four FFA Cup clash against Port United at Johnson Field on Saturday. The current Port Macquarie champions prevailed 4-1.
"Five weeks of training, not a bad effort," Coates said. "[We had] a couple of guys returning after a very long layoff, but [were] beaten by a very good side ... they were just too good."
Coates said Port United's side on Saturday included "about nine" players from their best outfit last season.
OVA opened the scoring through Mitchell O'Keefe, but the visitors led 2-1 at half-time. OVA played most of the second half down a man after Ryan Searl was sent off for what Coates described as "a little bit of gamesmanship, and the player over-reacted".
Coates took last season off after leading the side to three-straight premiership up until 2016 (Northies beat them in the 2017 grand final).
He said it was a "great break", but it was "great to be back".
"There's about a dozen new faces and old heads back in there [the side]," he said. "There's a very good club spirit at the moment, and it's great to be involved in it."
Given Coates' winning pedigree and the return of OVA players such Sam Higgins, Brendon Fergie, Searl, Luke Purcell and Ben Gennardinni, Mushies supporters may be expecting a big year from the side.
But as for ending Tamworth FC's two-year reign, Coates said: "Let's not get ahead [of ourselves]. It would be nice to play well every week."
Following the proposed conference structure being scrapped when five Armidale clubs recently joined a new competition, Coates said he had been informed that Northern Inland Football would now run an eight-team southern conference this season. NIF will this week make an official announcement regarding the new competition structure.