Lauren Faulkner believes Thornton will be capable of springing some upsets this Herald Women's Premier League season.
The 19-year-old fullback is among a handful of talented teenagers Redbacks coach Al Primmer describes as "the future", along with attacking players Jasmyn Hughes, 17, Taleah Mountford, 16 and Ainsley Childs, 17.
In a return to first grade last year a young Thornton finished seventh, only missing the wooden spoon on goal difference after two wins, one draw and 18 losses.
The Redbacks will again rely heavily on youth but Faulkner felt the departure of some of the league's big guns, including Jets striker Tara Andrews, to Sydney, could level the playing field this campaign. Twenty of Andrews' whopping 48 goals for the Eagles last year came in games against the bottom-three sides.
"The team is shaping up pretty good," Faulkner, who has been with Thornton since 2015, told the Newcastle Herald.
"I think we might have a bit of a chance this year since most of the W-League players have gone to the Sydney competition.
"We've got a few new girls who are looking pretty promising and I feel like after a few games together it will all come together and once we get our fitness up a bit more we might cause a few upsets."
Primmer said the main goal would be improvement and development.
"We've lost a few and we'll be very young again but we'll just continue to do what we do," Primmer said.
"Those 16-year-olds from last year who are now 17 have a year of experience. It's still going to be tough for them, they're still going to be coming up against really, really experienced footballers ... but I'll be sitting down with someone like Ainsley, who was our leading scorer last year, and saying, 'Set yourself a target, get yourself 10 goals'."
The Redbacks open their season against a new-look Adamstown at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility at Speers Point Sunday night. The match has been moved from Adamstown Oval and is now set to kick off at 7pm.