Selection headaches, an attacking brand of football, one or two players being trialled in unfamiliar positions, an unheralded newcomer, and an "extremely impressive" attitude to training.
That's where the Maitland Pickers find themselves less than a month out from their first competitive hit-out at the Kurri Nines, followed by three trial matches in March at Maitland Sportsground.
New coach Matt Lantry has been delighted at the way his squad has approached what he admits have been some gruelling sessions.
"I couldn't be happier with the approach," he said.
"I've said from the start I want depth in all positions, and that means competition for places. Playing first grade isn't easy, it's hard, and that includes training and preparation.
"The players know that spots are up for grabs and that they have to work hard."
One thing for certain is that the reserve grade side is going to have some quality players pushing for first grade - a far cry from last season when they were wooden spooners.
When Lantry joined the club he was soon followed by a number of his Rosella premiership players with him - hooker Alex Langbridge and his brother Daniel, five eighth Chad O'Donnell and second rower Pat Mata'utia.
It caused some concern that the Pickers juniors might be overlooked or forced out.
"Every player who left Maitland in the off-season was given every chance to stay," Lantry said.
"We're trying to build a club here to achieve sustained success.
"To do that you need the right personnel, people who buy in to the standard we're setting.
"The players we recruited weren't just picked for their football skill, but because they're the sort of people you want in your club. They're the sort of people a community can be proud of, who'll work with the young players to give them every chance of succeeding."
The former Newcastle Knight 's signing was one "out of the blue" that topped off the recruitments
"He wasn't on our radar, that's for sure," Lantry said.
"But he looks really happy with the move. He's training really well.
He seems to be enjoying himself and is happy to work with the 17s and 19s players too to offer advice.
"And every now and then he'll do something at training and you can see his class. He's topped off a really successful off-season for us."
It's obvious there's an abundance of talent in the halves - Tyler Perrin, Brock Lamb, Chad O'Donnell, Daniel Langbridge and new signing Jarom Haines for starters.
How does he see it panning out? Will Lamb play lock?
"No, I see Brock as a six or seven," Lantry said. "I played Dan Langbridge at lock for Wests a bit last year, so I know he can handle the forwards.
"And I think Jarom will play either fullback or five-eighth. They're the positions where his running game can cause opposition teams so many problems. Obviously this could change, and no doubt there will be injuries too."
Does the coach have a general view of how he wants his team to play?
"Your playing style is dictated by the players you have. And we have players who can move the ball quickly to the edges and out to the flanks, so I think we'd be mad not to take advantage of that.
"So I would think we'll be fairly expansive in the style we play.
"We also have a number of big, fast outside men like Greg Morris, Willis Alatini who played in the All Stars but missed a lot of last season at Wests with a knee injury, he's joined us this year ... these type of players are so dangerous and need to see the ball.
"We also have Elliott Jennings who's back from overseas, and Elijah Rasiga who has been part of the Knights under 20 set-up is with us too. As is another Knights under 20 player, Gary Anderson, a Thornton Beresfield junior.
"So it stands to reason we them to see plenty of ball."
Lantry will use pre-season to test a few players out of position.
Two of the most interesting experiments will be to use blockbusting outside backs Matt Allwood and Marco Delapena in the second row.
"They're both big and hit hard in defence," he said. "I'll be interested to see how it goes. If they handle the change - and it's a big change - it gives us more options. We already know how effective they are in the centres."
Lantry is renowned for his thoroughness and preparation. Has he been surprised by anyone?
"We've got a guy from Wests Tigers by the name of Senn Kane. I reckon he's a real 'smokey'. His efforts at training have been outstanding. He looks good. Keep an eye out for him."
Prop Sam Anderson had the role last year. Will he do it again?
"I haven't even discussed it with him. I know h has leadership qualities, but I'll talk to him about it.
"It's not a priority at this stage. I probably won't even look at it until mid-March."
After the Kurri Nines on February 29 - "I expect we'll go for a couple of the experienced guys, with a good number of the young kids" - the Pickers have three trial matches, all at Maitland.
They will play Wyong on Saturday, March 14, which will be a full day of action, including lower grades and ladies tag.
Then they will play Macquarie on March 28 and Souths on April 4.