AFTER a four-month delay, the Shoalhaven Rugby Club's 2020 season will finally kick-off this Saturday.
And their opening round proposition couldn't get much tougher - Wollongong Vikings at Vikings Rugby Club.
But Shoals' skipper Steven Brandon is adamant his side wouldn't have it any other way.
"We know Vikings are usually a structured team and do the basics really well but with the prolonged pre-season, it's a little hard to tell what we might be up against," Brandon said.
"We will be expecting them to be very strong at home but that doesn't mean we are shying away from the challenge - it's important we are all ready from the first whistle and can't afford a slow start.
"Everyone has been training in high spirits since we resumed and are looking forward to starting the season off with a win on Saturday."
With the Illawarra Rugby competition only running for nine rounds, with no finals, Brandon knows how important early wins will be.
"This year every game will be important no matter what and our road form hasn't been great in the past," he said.
"Our preparation has been leading towards knowing the season is short and we need to win as many games as we can.
"The road games will be key for us and we will need to fight as hard as we do when we play at home each week to ensure we are able to steal games on the road."
The Rugby Park-based club comes into this fixture on the back of a strong hit-out against the Batemans Bay Boars earlier this month.
"We had a very good practice match against Batemans Bay and were able to see how our news faces fared," Brandon, who was joined Illawarra Rugby Player of the Year in 2019, said.
"It was pleasing to see how some of those new combinations work together, especially in the new offensive and defensive structures we are implementing.
"With the mix of youth and experience in our squad and our never give up attitude, I'm confident we can turn plenty of heads."
Elsewhere in the opening round, Kiama host Campbelltown, Avondale takes on Shamrocks and Camden battling Tech Tahs, as University withdrew from the competition earlier this week.