THE past four Group Seven Rugby League seasons have resulted in four different premiers being crowned.
Is that a sign of things to come during the 2020 campaign or will one of those aforementioned sides or Gerringong (who won in 2015 and 2016) win their third title in the past five years?
Sports editor Courtney Ward analyses how all nine first grade teams are shaping up going into the new COVID-19 modified season while making his fearless predictions.
We will start at the top with the Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles and run alphabetically through to the Warilla-Lake South Gorillas.
Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles
Coach: Ian Jones and Steven Johnson.
2019 finish: Missed finals.
Additions: Sam Clune, Jordan Harty, Nick King, Jayden King, Emanuel Sultana, Tyler Atkins, Clyde Parsons, Tom Warner, Joey Warner and Ben Warner.
Losses: Luke Patten, Jake Brisbane and Sione Lufe.
X-Factor: Sam Clune.
Prospects: After two competitive seasons under the tutelage of Gary Breakspear, the club decided to appoint club legends Ian Jones and Steve Johnson as co-coaches for the 2020 season.
The pair's reign at the nest started promisingly by taking out the inaugural West Nines tournament in March.
Unfortunately, any momentum they developed from that win has probably been diminished due to the season's delayed kick-off.
However, it still instills confidence in the Eagles as they strive to make their first semi-finals appearance since 2012 - a year they defeated Gerringong 16-14 in the decider.
And with one the strongest recruitment drives of any of the nine first grade sides, the Park will go into the modified 2020 season with plenty of confidence.
The addition of Eagles junior Jordan Harty is massive, as he could help fill Luke Patten's shoes at fullback.
The electric runner of the ball will cause plenty of headaches for opposition defence's, especially when he combines with halves Emanuel Sultana (who he played with at Warilla-Lake South) and Sam Clune.
Sultana and the two King brothers (Nick and Jayden) will have plenty to prove, after spending last season on the sidelines, while Clune, who played a key role in Shellharbour's 2018 title, will be looking to rediscover that form, after a disjointed 2019.
Other beneficiaries of this lethal halves combination will be outside backs Dallas Harrison, Blake Jones, Tyler Atkins and Kane Ball (who has returned from Cronulla-Sutherland's under 20s side after the Jersey Flegg competition was cancelled), who have all proven they can score tries from all over the field.
Not to out outdone is the reinvigorated forward pack.
The past few seasons, club captain and one of the biggest workhorses in the competition, Josh Sainsbury, has played a lone hand in the engine room for the Eagles.
However, the addition of brothers Tom, Joey and Ben Warner should assist the courageous lock.
Back-rower Tom and props Joey and Ben should add plenty of starch to the forward pack, which will also contain Nick King, Jack Scurr, Rodney Coates and dynamic hooker Brent Wake - who proved to be a revelation at the club last season following his move from Kiama.
This deep forward pack should lay a fantastic platform for their backs to create havoc this season.
Berry-Shoalhaven Heads Magpies
Coach: Jayson Smith.
2019 finish: Missed finals.
Additions: PJ Thornton, Mitch Liddicoat, Jack Cross, Matt Sheppard, Luke Gale, Sam McCann, Mahn Darley, Blake Phillips, Jack Butler, Fletcher Winning and Christian Mosey.
Losses: Josh Ingold and Luke Ryder.
X-Factor: Blake Phillips.
Prospects: During Jayson Smith's first year in charge, the Magpies showed plenty of promise, but on numerous occasions they lacked the polish to kill off an opposition, which saw them lose countless tight contests.
So their win total of four (after leading more than 10 matches at half-time) is a little misleading and can be used to create optimism heading into the 2020 season.
The Magpies, although they've lost key playmaker Josh Ingold and workhorse Luke Ryder, have recruited well, especially in the engine room.
The Berry Showground-based club had originally secured the services of 119-game NRL veteran Michael Henderson, which would have brought plenty of experience and strength to the Magpies' young side.
However, due to COVID-19 and family commitments, Henderson has decided to not pull the boots on in 2020.
As disappointing as that is for the Berry faithful, the worldwide pandemic has seen the black and whites pick up seven players from Collegians - as they decided to not field a first grade team in Illawarra Coal League in 2020.
Spearheading this septet will be former Paul McGregor Medallist Blake Phillips, who could be the recruit of the year.
The hardworking forward, who seems to go up a notch in the final 10 minutes of each half, will completely revitalise the Berry side.
The Milton-Ulladulla product will be joined by fellow Bulldogs junior Sam McCann, as well as Fletcher Winning, Jack Butler, Jack Cross, Luke Gale and Matt Sheppard in Jayson Smith's side to 2020 - before returning to Collies next season.
Gale, Cross and Sheppard will accompany Phillips in the pack - which also includes enforcer PJ Thornton, who will provide plenty of go-forward for the Magpies and emotional leader Joe Rogers.
Blake Dryden, who in my opinion is one of the best hookers in the competition, will thrive behind this lethal forward pack - as will halves Jack McPherson and Billy Hayburn.
While outside backs McCann, Winning and Butler will add strike-power to the already dangerous backline of recruits Mitch Liddicoat, Mahn Darley (who's played for the Australian Defence Force rugby league side) and Christian Mosey.
Add in one of the strongest nurseries on the South Coast, headlined by Charlie and Ollie Parrish, Ky Sims, Louie Chilver and Caleb Robinson, and Smith's side look set to be a far improved side in 2020 - with finals not out of the realm of possibility.
Coach: Michael Cronin.
2019 finish: Knocked out in semi-finals.
Additions: Kayne Brennan, Kal Collins (missed all 2019 through injury), Tyran Wishart, Tim Moore, Chris Mann, Hamish Holland and Denver Ford.
Losses: Harry Phillips and Joel Roberts.
X-Factor: Tyran Wishart.
Prospects: For a team that sets such high standards, thanks to a league-best 19 premierships, the 2019 season, in which they bowed out in the semi-finals, can only be seen as a failure for Michael Cronin's men.
Despite this, there are still a number of positives, such as the emergence of Group Seven Rookie of the Year Alexander Weir, Jake Taylor and Toby Gumley-Quine,which the red, white and blue will carry into 2020.
The Lions will be the first to admit they've been a little light on in the forward department the past few seasons, but that won't be the case for the Michael Cronin Oval-based side in 2020.
Headlining the engine room will be two-time premiership-winning front-rowers Kal Collins and Tim Moore, with the latter returning from a stint in Illawarra (with Berkeley and Dapto).
Mix in these two with fellow prop Weir, lock Taylor, back-rower Corey Mulhall, the experienced Chris Mann and young guns Hamish Holland and Denver Ford (both returning from the Dragons' Jersey Flegg side) and all of the sudden, the Lions' forward pack is as fearsome as any in the competition.
And let's not forget the heart and soul of the Lions' pack, their hooker and inspirational leader Nathan Ford - who year in, year out is one of the best players in the whole league.
A strong platform by these powerhouses will go a long way to allowing the dangerous halves pairing of Rixon Russell and Tyran Wishart to cause havoc.
This mixture of youth and experience should complement each other perfectly, especially as the latter is coming off a strong pre-season with the Dragons first grade group.
Once these two click, points will follow - especially if their centres Matt Winchester and Kayne Brennan (who could be the competition's top pairing) are firing on all cylinders.
Mix in the electric Toby Gumley-Quine (if he can overcome an ankle injury) at the back and the Lions could be looking at their first premierships since 2016.
Coach/captain: Jono Dallas.
2019 finish: Lost in the grand final.
Additions: Daniel Burke and Jayden Morgan.
Losses: Dillon Capaan, Dean Watling and Brock Skelly.
X-Factor: Kurt Field.
Prospects: After being the benchmark all season in 2019, which included only losing two regular season games on their way to finishing equal first with Shellharbour, the Superoos were pipped in last year's decider by Kiama.
With the majority of their squad returning, except outside backs Dillon Capaan and Dean Watling, as well as influential hooker Brock Skelly, the Roos look set for another massive season.
Both these two will bolster an already impressive forward pack that includes James Gilmore, Corey Grigg, Kyle Stone, Jimmy Asquith, Kieran Pierce, Brendan Smith and Luke Asquith - who is my pick to take out this year's Cronin Medal.
This go-forward power will lay a fantastic platform for halves Jono Dallas and Mark Asquith, who complement each other fantastically.
Captain/coach Dallas will orchestrate everything Jamberoo does on the field, with his leadership, passing and in-game kicking.
While Asquith, who played fullback during the side's 2017 premiership, is a natural ball-runner, that feeds off the freedom created by his halves partner.
Both will continue to play what is in front of them, which will no doubt create plenty of chances for their outside backs.
Those backs include possibly the most feared centre partner in the competition, in Jake Clarke and Simon Maslanka.
Both are hard-running players, who have the speed and ability to create scoring chances for players inside and outside of them.
One particular beneficiary of this duo could be winger Ben Barnard, who appears poised for a big season - with him even being my tip to win the top try-scorers award.
With a balanced starting side, full of continuity, and depth on the bench, the Superoos will be one of the favourites to take out the 2020 premiership.
Coach: Matt Clarke.
2019 finish: Premiers.
Additions: Josh Dowel, Matt Cornell, Sean Payne and Tom Harris.
Losses: Lachie Farrell, Tyler Clark and Ethan Ford.
X-Factor: Tom Angel/Josh Dowel.
Prospects: After two straight grand final losses, it was third time lucky for the Knights, who were desperate to end 34 years of heartache.
As hard as it is to lift the Artie Smith Cup on grand final day, it's even more difficult defending that crown.
However, with the majority of last year's 17 returning to The Castle in 2020 - as well as a number of key additions - Matt Clarke's men will once again be a force.
The team's spine of Dylan Morris, Tom Atkins, Cam Vazzoler and Daniel Martin is intact - with their mixture of speed, toughness, endurance and skill making them one of the most formidable playmaking quartets on the South Coast.
Vazzoler, the puppeteer to the whole operation, is the top halfback in the competition and will be looking to build on his outstanding past two campaigns which include a Michael Cronin Medal and premiership.
Speedsters Matt Morris and Jay Delaney, the dangerous Cal Thistlethwaite and recruit Tom Harris, who joins for one season from Collegians, add to the potent attack.
Rounding out the Kiama Showground-based club's starting side will be their forward pack, which one could argue is the side's real strength.
Tom Angel was the competition's best back-rower last season, causing chaos down the left edge every time he touched the footy.
He will be complemented by the hard-running Toby Nobes, who has an engine is as big as anyone's in the league.
Moving into the centre of the field is where you'll find Captain Koo (Kieran Poole) - the ball-playing lock - the quietly spoken and inspirational leader of this side.
Either side of him in the engine room will be Luke Chalker, who was enormous in last year's grand final, former Warilla-Lake South Gorilla Josh Dowel, who finished second in the Paul McGregor Medal in 2019, and Sean Payne - with the latter two and Harris all helping Collegians win the 2019 Illawarra Coal League title.
These two, who could very well be the best front-row partnership in Group Seven, both can play big minutes and will provide a solid platform for their outside backs.
With strike power right across the park, the Knights aren't going to relinquish their title without a fight in 2020.
Coach/captain: Dylan Farrell.
2019 finish: Missed finals.
Additions: Jason Gillard, Paul Roberts, Dylan Buchanan, Kuyan Wellington, Matt Scott, Sean Deaves, Saxon Onur and Mason Harrison.
Losses: PJ Ardler, Danny Deaves, Dwyane Connors and Jake Gould.
X-Factor: Paul Roberts.
Prospects: For years, the Jets have had one of the most talented squads on paper in Group Seven.
However, for whatever reason, always seem to underachieve - as shown by them missing the semi-finals by the smallest of margins last season.
This shows premierships aren't won on paper.
However, after the South Coast Black Cockatoos' breakthrough win at the Koori Knockout last year - in which close to a dozen Jets were a part of - those issues could be a thing of the past for the this year Bomaderry Sporting Complex-based club, who also reached the final of the West Wyalong Knockout.
One of those Black Cockatoos is Jason Gillard, who returns to his junior club, after his St George Illawarra Dragons' NSW Cup assault for 2020 was cancelled.
Gillard will more than likely line up at fullback - being the key to the Jets' powerful backline.
He will be accompanied in the back five by four of the following players; Blake Harris-Davis, Nathan Falzon, Kuyan Wellington, Sean Deaves, Saxon Onur and Brandon Walsh - highlighting the depth captain/coach Dylan Farrell has at his disposal.
My guess is Maltese international Falzon and Onur (who has joined from Collegians) will man the centre positions, with recruits Wellington (Dragons) and Deaves (Moruya) on the flanks.
These five are sure to be the beneficiary of creative halves and Black Cockatoo teammates Farrell and Josh Coulter.
The other main source of creativity in the side will come from dynamic hooker Paul Roberts, who was part of Collegians 2019 Illawarra Coal League premiership side.
Roberts, a damaging ball-runner, will spearhead a forward pack set to feature hard-working lock Josh Power-Farrell, powerful props Matt Scott (who returns from West Belconnen), Zac Kershaw and Dylan Buchanan and back-rowers Tyson Simpson, Mason Harrison and Ryan James - who is one of the most electric players in the competition.
The squad also features 2014 premiership players Matt Rouen and Kurt Quinlan, young guns Zac Blattner, Chaise Sines, Trent Waldron and Matt Dysktra and Rhys Fagerlund - emphasising the depth at the club in 2020.
With this squad at his disposal, anything but a semi-final appearance will be seen as another disappointment for Farrell's side.
Coach: Abed Atallah.
2019 finish: Lost in the preliminary final.
Additions: Matt Forsyth, Daniel Bogolin, James Rousell, Manu Enese, Brody Rigg and Ryan McCracken (injured all 2019).
Losses: Sam Clune and Jack Kavanagh.
X-Factor: Deejay Harris.
Prospects: Ask anyone at the Ron Costello Oval-based club and the way the Sharks' 2019 season ended is still a sore point for many of the players and coaches.
So it comes as no surprise most of last year's squad, except lock Jack Kavanagh, prop Matt Coltman and utility Sam Clune, have returned for the 2020 campaign - meaning Abed Atallah's side will be right up there again.
A model of consistency over the past three seasons - including a premiership in 2018 and preliminary finals appearances in 2017 and 2019 - the Sharks will be setting the latter as a baseline for their centenary season.
That is largely due to them retaining the majority of last year's spine, including skipper Matt Carroll, five-eighth Nick Greenhalgh and hooker Kiran Tranter.
Veteran Carroll, who is in the conversation with Vazzoler and Dallas as the top halfback in the competition, constantly puts opposition teams on the back foot with his exceptional kicking game and poise.
His partnership with Greenhalgh, now in its second season, will be pivotal to the Sharks' chances this season.
Complementing that skilful duo will be workhorse Tranter, who has quickly established himself as one of the top rakes in the game.
Outside this trio will be a backline that contains dynamic centres Donte Efaraimo and Deejay Harris, speedster Jayme McElhone, athletic finisher Jye Brooker and recruits Matt Forsyth, who appears set to claim the number one jersey, and Manu Enese.
Joining Tranter in the pack will be middle forwards Juvilee Samiu, Daniel Bogolin and James Rousell, back-rowers Wayde Aitken, Kade Sampson and Ryan McCracken (who is primed for a massive season) and utility Brody Rigg.
Despite flying under the radar a little, with so many other sides going on recruitment drives, you'd be a brave person to not believe the Sharks are finals bound in 2020.
Stingrays of Shellharbour
Coaches: Greg 'Buster' Reh and Brad Reh.
2019 finish: Missed finals.
Additions: Greg 'Buster' Reh, Matt Murray, Hamish McLaurin, Zaan Weatherall, Keiran Rankmore, Jason Green, Chance Perham, Eze Harper, Josh Adu, Josh Ward, Jiye Ellis and Sam Price.
Losses: Will Homer, Liam Quinn and Mitch Rosser.
X-Factor: Zaan Weatherall.
Prospects: There's no denying the Stingrays' introduction to first grade has been rough.
During that three-year span, they have only won only two matches - both in 2017.
With change needed, the club appointed Wests stalwarts 'Buster' and Brad Reh as co-coaches for the 2020 season.
This signalled a change for the Flinders Field-based club, who then went about revamping its playing roster.
They welcomed back local juniors Hamish McLaurin and Matt Murray to the club, as well as fellow Group Seven product Jiye Ellis (Albion Park-Oak Flats).
Forwards Keiran Rankmore and Jason Green also put pen to paper, as did English trio Eze Harper, Josh Adu and Josh Ward and Woolgoolga Seahorses fullback Chance Perham.
As strong as all those players are, the one that has people most excited is former Manly-Warringah under 20s player and New Zealand under 18s representative Zaan Weatherall.
The 21-year-old, who will most likely play in the halves for the Rays, will reconnect with former coach Brad - which could pay serious dividends for the club.
On top of these new additions, the club has retained key players such as Kaden Towle, Tyson Owen, Anthony Nabbe, James Scott, Hone Tukere, Jayden Sergeant and Shaun Baulch.
All these factors make me believe the Rays will be the most improved side in 2020 and will cause numerous upsets this season - as they attempt to rebuild for the future.
Warilla-Lake South Gorillas
Coaches: Troy Grant and Neil Farmilo.
2019 finish: Knocked out in semi-finals.
Additions: Jake Brisbane, Sam Hooper, Blair Grant, Duke Grant, Callum Gromek, Dean Hodgson, Oscar Fitzpatrick, Blake Dowel, Justin Jones and Blake Barbuto.
Losses: Daniel Burke, Chad Lisch, Tyson Brown, Kayne Brennan, Hans Schuster, Aaron Henry, Lloyd Thomas and Hamish McLaurin.
X-Factor: Blair Grant.
Prospects: The 2020 season will signal a changing of the guard at Cec Glenholmes Oval.
A number of last year's experienced players Aaron Henry, Lloyd Thomas, Daniel Burke, Kayne Brennan, Tyson Brown, Chad Lisch and Hans Schuster have moved on, forcing the club to hand the reigns over to their next generation.
From under 18s stars Sam Hooper, Oscar Fitzpatrick, Duke Grant and Callum Gromek (who helped the club win a premiership in 2019), to the returning Blair Grant and Blake Dowel and the addition of Jake Brisbane (from Albion Park-Oak Flats), the Gorillas have a plethora of exciting talent.
Of those seven, halves Grant, who helped the club to a first grade grand final in 2016, and Brisbane appear to be the keys.
The pair played St George Illawarra under 20s together last year, which will no doubt pay dividends for the blue and golds in 2020.
Between Grant's speed and athleticism and Brisbane's passing and kicking game, the Gorillas have a duo they can build their team around for years to come.
The main beneficiaries of these two will be electric outside backs Gromek, Kye Deane, Hooper and recruit Justin Jones.
If hardworking forwards such as Blake Barbuto, Duke Grant, Dean Hodgson and Jake Kiznett, as well as props Jake Goody and Guy Rosewarn play up to their damaging best then look out.
The Gorillas' energy and enthusiasm will cause plenty of headaches for sides in 2020, as they restart their journey towards the Artie Smith Cup.
Ladder after home and away season: 1. Jamberoo, 2. Gerringong, 3. Kiama, 4. Nowra-Bomaderry, 5. Shellharbour, 6. Albion Park-Oak Flats, 7. Warilla-Lake South, 8. Berry-Shoalhaven Heads and 9. Stingrays.
Leading point scorer: Cam Vazzoler (Kiama).
Leading try scorer: Ben Barnard (Jamberoo).
Rookie of the year: Callum Gromek (Warilla-Lake South).
Best recruit: Blake Phillips (Berry-Shoalhaven Heads)/Josh Dowel (Kiama).
Michael Cronin Medal winner: Luke Asquith (Jamberoo).
Grand final: Jamberoo vs Gerringong - with the Lions lifting their first Artie Smith Trophy since 2016.