Maitland Magpies skipper Carl Thornton is looking forward to catching up with some old Weston mates after Saturday night's El Clasicoal derby but on the pitch he expects the Bears to be doing everything possible to derail Maitland's push for a second premiership in three years.
On paper the game against Weston should be one to pencil in for a win, but as skipper of both teams Thornton knows the derby is no ordinary game.
"They will be doing everything possible to beat us. It's an important game for both teams and they beat us earlier in the year when went in favourite at home," Thornton, who joined the Magpies from the Bears in 2016, said.
"It's an important game for us as we need the win to keep our push for the premiership on track. They can still make the five and would love to upset our plans as well."
Maitland kept up their recent good form with a 3-1 victory against Valentine with goals to Flynn Goodman, Tyran Counsins and Ryan Clarke.
They jumped to second with Broadmeadow Magic held to a 1-1 draw with Adamstown.
The Magpies, with 31 points, have opened the path to finishing on top of the table with games against the Bears and Adamstown and finishing with chief rivals for the title Adamstown (34) and Broadmeadow Magic (30).
It's a prospect Thornton admits he wasn't considering at the start of the year with a changing of the guard at the club and an influx of young players including Ty Cousins, Joe Melmeth, Flynn Goodman and Tyrell Paulson.
Youthful enthusiasm, the development of Jimmy Thompson, Zach Thomas and Sean Pratt into the next generation of leaders and the class and experience of the older guard led by Thornton, Matt Swan, Alex Read and Ryan Clarke has gelled.
Thornton was part of the Bears' 2010 minor premiership and 2010 and 2014 losing grand final teams. He captained them from 2013-15.
At 33 and still playing some of his best football, Thornton believes has at least another two or three seasons in him and looks forward to another period of success.
"We're probably a little ahead with this playing group than we thought would be and find ourselves vying for trophies this season which is fantastic," he said.
"But I think the best years with this group are over the next two or three seasons.
"The younger guys are only going to mature and the emerging leaders like Jimmy (Thompson), Zach (Thomas) and Pratty (Sean Pratt) are only starting to hit the prime years of their careers."
Kick off in Saturday's El Clasicoal derby is at 5pm at Rockwell Automation Park in Weston.