AFTER one year's hiatus, the AFL South Coast's men's side will return to the field on Saturday, when they travel up to Pasterfield Sports Complex to take on AFL Hunter Central Coast.
Although they smashed Sapphire Coast by 99 points in 2017, coach Rod Richards knows this will a much harder proposition.
"Traditionally, going back to their Black Diamond League days, the Hunter Central Coast are a very strong footy region," Richards said.
"They showed that talent when we went up there and played against them a couple of years ago - where they ran over us in the fourth quarter.
"Notoriously, they are very skilled with the ball and like to use their pace and I'd expect nothing less than a really tough contest on Saturday."
On the flipside, Richards and his coaching staff probably have the strongest AFL South Coast team the region has put together in a number campaigns.
"The main strength of our squad is the adaptability and versatility to fill numerous roles on the field," Richards said.
"On top of that, we have a lot of guys who love putting pressure on the footy - a characteristic I love and I hope this team hangs their hats on."
Richards, who has represented AFLSC on 16 occasions (10 as a player and six as coach), knows first hand how much a win on Saturday would mean to the whole of the South Coast competition - which continues to grow each and every year.
"Hunter Central Coast will be our toughest opponent in quite some time, which shows the improvement within the side," Richards, who has never lost as coach of the AFLSC side, said.
"I can remember going down to Wagga Wagga as a player in 2008 and we were in tier three, while the Hunter were in tier one - we weren't even allowed on the same field as them.
"But now we have quite a few guys in the side who have played at a high level, so I'm looking forward to seeing them flex their muscles and showing us all what their about.
"Ten years ago, we'd pick our 22 but then would be left filling the spots in the days leading up to the match, as people would be pulling out all the time.
"But this year, we started with the 2018 Team of the Year, before adding in form players to the squad, before reducing it to our final 23.
"We got that prestige back in the guernsey - it's finally back to being a representative side instead of being a side that is representing the region."
While in Newcastle, Richards' side will feature Bomaderry's Jack Boxsell as well as Wollongong Lions' Jack Burgess, Jake Hogarth, Rohan Watson, Sam Wilson, Will Cook, Chris Cook, Ben Green and Kai Anu, Kiama's Ben Hoctor, Ben Rawson, Ben Williams, Jack Mahony, Lachlan Kirk, Nick Baggio, Matt Price, Josh Simpson and Ricky Neels, Figtree's Mitchell Daly, Callum McFadden, Ben Ryan and Jacob Hennessy and Wollongong Bulldogs' Aaron Jory.
First bounce of the men's game is at 5pm, which will follow the AFL South Coast women's historic first match, where they too will be playing AFL Hunter Central Coast from 3pm.
Geoff Gibbs and Ben Hyndes women's squad is headlined by Bomaderry's Bridget Kellett, Emma Dowse, Jess Liddiard, Jess Thomas, Samantha Weir and Sophie Phillips - who are joined in the squad by Lions' Jacqueline Wilson, Jordan van de Voorde, Lauren Myers, Mel Beaveridge and Mikaela Allen, Bulldogs' Kathryn Gaskin, Kelsey Hogan, Mikayla Sheahan, Millie Somes and Romy Bradmore, Shellharbour City Suns' Shellee Gibson and Taigen Greenfel, Dapto City Unicorns' Nicola Smyth, Kiama Power's Cassie O'Leary and Wollongong Saints' Kimberly Chan.