At the dawn of 2017 before their first FFA Cup match at 5.30pm on Saturday, Lake Albert Sharks cannot shake the feeling of renewal.
The injured have healed, the downtrodden have returned invigorated and with a premiership in their pocket, there is a fresh sense of conviction at training.
“What was lacking this time last year was belief, we had eight new players,” coach Michael Babic said.
“Among the boys this year there’s a feeling, we know we’re good, there’s a real belief, there’s a real team vibe.”
Babic will bring a near-full team, aside from grand final starters Matt Hoff and Blake Smith who are unavailable, to confront Balmain FC at Gissing Oval on Saturday.
Ex Wagga City Wanderers’ player Kane Baumer will make his debut, complementing Henri Gardner upfront.
Fred Gardner will float between the left and right wing, feeding the ball through to Baumer and his brother.
“Henri’s looking very sharp and very fit, last year he carried injuries,” Babic said.
“I’ll play a couple of guys I want to have a look at, see if they're up to standard.”
Depending on how the team fares during the game, juniors transitioning to first grade, James Trevaskis and Tom Manton, may get a run off the bench.
“They’re feeling pretty excited, but we do play a team from Sydney,” he said.
“It’s the biggest junior club side in Australia, we’ll see how we go.”