If the Maitland Magpies are to make a third straight grand final this season, they're going to have to do it with a whole new strike force.
This follows the news that start recruit Braedyn Crowley, who was the leading scorer last season, has left the club. It comes on the back of fellow striker Joel Wood joining Valentine, a move - unlike Crowley's - that was widely anticipated.
Crowley, 24, has headed south to play with Bentleigh Greens in the Victorian NPL.
"Braedyn has always set his sights on the A-League and he sees this as a better opportunity to help him get there," Magpies coach Mick Bolch said.
"They're one of the top two or three teams in the Victorian league which is probably a bit stronger than the NSW NPL, so we can understand his reasons and wish him the best.
"But obviously it leaves a hole when you lose a player of that calibre."
There was little doubt that Crowley and Wood formed one of the most potent front lines in the NPL.
Crowley was the league's leading scoring in 2019 with 15 goals for Lambton Jaffas before finishing equal top with 13 for the Magpies in the COVID-hit, shortened 2020 regular season.
He then picked up another four goals in the play-offs as Maitland scrapped their way from fifth place to the grand final.
By any reckoning it's a major loss. When you throw in the fact that veteran keeper Matt Trott and has retired, as has top midfielder Andrew Swan after a knee reconstruction, and right back Tom Davies has headed back to Newcastle Olympic, it means the Magpies have some holes to fill.
But Bolch refuses to be fazed.
"Every season you start the season aiming to make the play-offs and then down the track maybe on winning the comp if you're going well," he said.
"So nothing has changed in that regard, but yes there will be some new faces."
One of the good things about last season's injury-hit campaign was that it gave the club the chance to blood a number of young players who will get their chance to lock down a starting position this season.
And there are some new names as well.
Alex Read has returned after playing with Valentine last season and young midfielder Ty Cousins has joined from Broadmeadow Magic and, according to Bolch, has "been training the house down".
Another recruit from Broadmeadow is goalkeeper Lachie Watson who will no doubt slot in for Trott.
Charlie Cox has also returned to the club to bolster the club's midfield options.