If the Tamworth Swans weren't already expected to be a force in this year's AFL North West competition, then they certainly are now, last year's semi-finalists warming up for the season with a win over reigning premiers Gunnedah Bulldogs in their trial game in Gunnedah on Saturday.
While it was only a trial and both sides weren't at full strength, Swans coach Paul Kelly said it was a pleasing result and shows that they are "on the right track".
It will also a good confidence-boost. And a timely one too, as it has transpired, with the Swans set to travel to Gunnedah in the opening round.
Kelly said normally they would go there thinking 'oh no we've got to play Gunnedah'.
"Now we go there with a fair bit of confidence that we can do pretty well there," he said.
He was particularly impressed with his sides running on Saturday.
"We ran and linked up our handballs really well," he said.
One thing they will though be working on is their kicking accuracy.
"We didn't kick too straight," Kelly said.
They would have kicked more than 10 behinds and by his count had at least 12 more scoring shots than the Bulldogs did.
That said, it was encouraging that they were getting the ball forward so much.
"We had a lot more ball in our forward 50 than they did," Kelly said.
The midfield was a real strength for the Swans with new recruit Josh Jones and Connor Betts two of their best.
Betts had previously played predominantly on the wing but was "really good" playing in the midfield for the first time.
Jones has moved to Tamworth from Holbrook, where he has captained the local side since 2014, and looks like being a good acquisition.
"He's going to be really handy," Kelly said.
Saturday was the Swans second hit-out for the season. They played a trial against Warners Bay just before COVID hit.
"It was good to get a game and try out the structures we've been working on at training," Kelly said.
While they were "probably a bit rusty" on some of them having only really had a couple of weeks to bed them down, he thought they "worked pretty well".
The draw for the 10-round competition was released on Monday with a July 18 kick-off for both the men and the women. The under-14s and under-17s will get underway the following weekend.
There will be no finals series with the top two after the regular season to do battle for the silverware on September 26.
In the other opening round clashes the Tamworth Kangaroos are at home to the New England Nomads and Inverell host Moree.