MANGOPLAH-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes have played down the assessment from their rivals they are again the team to beat in the new-look AFL Riverina Championship.
The Goannas last year's Riverina League title, and unfurled the premiership flag before their season-opening 69-33 win over Leeton on Saturday.
The team had a new look to it with former Wodonga Raiders and Victorian Netball League under-19s player Vashti Muller starring in defence, Rachel Addison providing an experienced head in mid-court and East Wagga recruit Ruby Gillard also debuting.
MCUE coach Marie Hope said the six-team, six-round season gives the competition a different dimension, and is adamant the premiership is "up for grabs".
"It's an unknown, to be honest. There's so much more talent that's come to the RFL championship," she said.
"We're reigning premiers from last year, but it's a very different season. We're aware we're going to have to work for it as much as everyone.
"It was great to see the girls play in a competitive environment. You can train as much as you want and have practice matches, but when you're playing for points there's a bit more intensity out there.
"The short season doesn't change what you do, but it intensifies how you do it. Every game is going to have a finals feel to it, because there isn't a second time (to play an opponent) other than the first round we play.
"We want to solidify combinations and it brings that sense of urgency to players, who are going to have less court time to find their groove."
Hope said there was a handful of occasions where she thought a season may not get off the ground.
"I think the competition was on a knife's edge many times, but I would have been pretty accepting of whatever decisions were made because experts were making those," she said.
"It was great to be back and some things have changed in how we go about it to make it a safe environment, which we fully support."
In other matches Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong began their campaign with a 48-25 victory over Turvey Park, while Wagga Tigers beat newcomers Osborne 37-30.