Former midfielder Chris Fayers returns to boost the already formidable Maitland FC line-up as the Magpies prepare to kick off their 2019 premiership title defence.
The Magpies return to the field for the first time since March in a trial match against Adamstown at Cooks Square Park on Sunday, July 5.
The Mapgies kick off their campaign proper the following Sunday (July 12) in a grand final rematch against Edgeworth at Jack McLauchlan Oval. It's the first of a 13-game season, which will be followed by a four-week top-five final series.
Fayers, who last played with the Magpies in 2018 and has most recently been playing professionally in Malaya after trials in Europe, is another key signing for Maitland who have already added star striker Braedyn Crowley, defender Joey O'Connor (Jets Youth) and welcome the return of electrifying forward Matt Comerford to the side.
The Magpies other key defensive signing Adam Blunden (The Entrance) unfortunately will not be able to join the club because of work commitments.
Departures from last season include Matt Thompson, Ryan Clarke and Alex Read, but the Magpies are expected to be firmly in the race to defend their premiership title and add the grand final cup to their trophy cabinet.
"I know the players have been chomping at the bit to get out there and they are all looking forward to the first trial game next weekend," Magpies coach Mick Bolch said on Sunday.
"Chrissy Fayer is back with us and like all the boys is keen to get back into it. He was playing in Malaysia but obviously with everything that went on he had to come home and with travel restrictions he is staying here this season.
"He has been training with us for the last three weeks and been training the house down. It's good competition in the midfield now with the two Swan boys, Cowby (Nick Cowburn) and Chrissy Fayers. He is a welcome addition."
"Up forward with Joel Woods, Braedyn Crowley, Cummo (Matt Comerford) and Jimmy (Thompson) it's looking good. There's plenty of competition for the forward spots. Jimmy Thompson has been really starring since we came back into training."
Bolch congratulated Northern NSW Football and hard-working volunteers at club level on putting together a competition after the 2020 season was halted three days before the first round.
"I'm happy with the system and most of the coaches I have spoke to are of the same opinion. Without it being an 18-game competition I think this is as good a way as they could handle it.," he said.
"You are not playing everyone twice but this is the next best thing we can do."
A draw has been released for the first nine rounds. Each team will play each other once and then the competition will be divided into two pools of five with each side from within the pool playing each other once to complete the final four rounds.
To ensure as even as possible divisions the top two teams will be randomly selected into either pool, followed by the next two and so on.
The top five final series will begin in October and the grand final will be on the weekend of November 7-8.
"They are still doing a top-five finals series which I think is good, so really you've just got to be in a decent position after the first nine rounds," Bolch said.
"We are really looking forward to it. We've got the yardsticks straight away with Edgeworth who with Jaffas are the two teams this year who are going to be up there.
"It will be a good yardstick straight away."
Bolch said he disagreed with any suggestion that the 2020 premiership and grand final titles would be compromised.
"There's been a few people saying whoever wins the comp there will be an asterisk beside it, but I'm not a believer in that," he said.
"Whoever wins the comp is going to be premiers and they will see themselves as premiers, everyone is still playing under the same rules and gets there 13 games.
"There's been a lot of work put in by Northern NSW Football and the volunteers to have a competition.
"Once the comp starts there will be no thought of it's only 13 games, it will be just coming out giving 100 per cent each week and trying to win every game."
Northern NSW NPL Opening Nine Rounds
- Edgeworth at Jack McLaughlan Oval, Sunday, July 12, 2,30pm
- Lake Macquarie at Cooks Square Park, Sunday, July 19 at 2.30pm
- Weston Workers at Rockwell Automation Park, Sunday, July 26 at 2.30pm
- Valentine at Cooks Square Park, Sunday, August 2, at 2.30pm
- Newcastle Olympic at Darling Street Oval, Saturday, August 8, at 2.30pm
- Lambton Jaffas at Cooks Square Park, Sunday, August 16, at 2.30pm
- Broadmeadow Magic at Cooks Square Park, Saturday, August 22, at 2.30pm
- Adamstown Rosebud at Adamstown Oval, Sunday, August 30, at 2.30pm
- Charlestown Azzurri at Cooks Square Park, Sunday, September 6, at 2.30pm
- Newcastle Olympic at Rockwell Automation Park, Sunday, July 12, 2,30pm
- Lambton Jaffas at Arthur Edden Oval, Saturday, July 18, 2,30pm
- Maitland at Rockwell Automation Park, Sunday, July 26, 2,30pm
- Adamstown Rosebud at Adamstown Oval, Sunday, August 2, at 2.30pm
- Charlestown Azzurri at Rockwell Automation Park, Sunday, August 9, at 2.30pm
- Edgeworth at Jack McLaughlan Oval, Sunday, August 16, at 2.30pm
- Lake Macquarie City at Rockwell Automation Park, Sunday, August 23, at 2.30pm
- Broadmeadow Magic at Rockwell Automation Park, Sunday, August 30, at 2.30pm
- Valentine at CB Complex, Sunday, September 6, at 2.30pm