Defending premiers Nothern Suburbs will lose three premiership heroes and welcome back two others when they start their 2020-21 title defence on November 6.
Key trio Cal Gabriel, Brad Jenkinson and Matthew Holwell will be missing from the team which upset favourites City United in the 2020-21 grand final.
The loss, however, will be mitigated to an extent with the return of former premiership captain Josh Callinan and pace bowler Mitch Field.
New skipper Lincoln Mills, who takes over from Mike Wilson who is still playing, said a fast start to the season will be crucial given the shortened season.
"We've had a habit of being slow starters so we will have to hit the ground running this season as those early wins will be crucial in setting up teams to make the finals," he said.
In the news:
Mills said Gabriel had been outstanding for Norths over the past season and was looking forward to the new challenge of Newcastle.
"Unfortunately, he suffered a bad break in his leg playing soccer and is likely to miss the season," ," Mills said.
"He is a huge loss for us, but you can't stand in the way of players wanting to challenge themselves at higher levels. It's just unfortunate he can't play.
"We've built our club's success on developing young players to play in first grade and beyond."
Gabriel had become one of the standout players in the competition scoring a century and averaging 60 last season after scoring two centuries and averaging 70 in a break-out 2019-20 season.
He also picked up 23 wickets last season, following 26 the year before.
Mills said Jenkinson and Holwell had played huge roles in ensuring Norths made the finals and in their ultimate success in last year's grand final.
"Brad's gone back to Queensland for work and Matt has hung the boots up," Mills said. "They were just so instrumental in us winning what was an unlikely premiership last season.
"They brought back that steeliness and competitiveness which you need to be successful in first grade.
"We had to nearly produce two perfect games for us to win the title.
"First in the semi-final when we knew heavy rain was coming and we needed to make runs and get Thornton out on the same day to get through.
"Then in the grand final when we faced City who were the stand out team of all year."
Mills said the remainder of the premiership squad would be back in 2021-22 with his 2014-15 premiership teammates Callinan and Field returning to Lorn Park to boost the team.
"Josh Cal's record speaks for itself. He is a premiership captain and was one of the district's best batsman when he played for us," he said.
"Mitch is just one of those super competitive people who you know will have success just because they are so driven. He bowls at full pace all day and just never gives in."
Field had a break from the game and Callinan last played in Maitland in 2016-17 when he top scored with 52 in Norths' loss to City in the grand final.
Mills said he expected continued growth from the younger members of the team including the Sugden brothers Ben and Matt, paceman Denzel O'Brien and keeper Ben Clouten.
"We had young Lachlan McIntrye come into our team late last year and he will no doubt continue his development and hopefully establish himself in first grade this year," he said.
"Some other young up and comers s who will no doubt play a role this season are Jack Ryan along with Callan Barber and Fletcher Cousins who will continue to develop and push for first grade selection."