IT doesn't feel too long ago that Nathan Ford was lifting the Artie Smith Trophy at Centenary Field and his Gerringong Lions were celebrating their record 20th Group Seven Rugby League premiership.
However, all that is now a distant memory as the 2021 season kicks off this weekend across the South Coast.
Despite its record-breaking efforts in 2020, the competition will again only have nine teams, with Milton-Ulladulla returning to the top flight and Berry-Shoalhaven Heads withdrawing from first grade for just the fourth time since 1914.
So ahead of this weekend's round one, sports editor Courtney Ward has analysed how each of the nine first grade outfits are shaping up, while also making his fearless predictions for the 2021 season.
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.
2020 finish: Missed the finals.
Additions: Donte Efaraimo, Paul Roberts and Buddy Braddick.
Losses: Jack Scurr, Jayden Harris and Kane Ball.
X-Factor: Paul Roberts.
After a promising start to the 2020 season, the Eagles' year petered out - seeing their semi-final drought extend to nine years.
But with the majority of their core returning, as well as a number of key additions, the Eagles look set to continue their rise in year two of the Jones/Johnson coaching reign.
One of those key additions is Donte Efaraimo, who returns to the nest after stints with Helensburgh (one year), Collegians (three years) and most recently Shellharbour (three years).
The talented outside back, who will most likely line up in the centres, will add some serious strike power to the backline that already posses the likes of Blake Jones, who had played more than 100 games for the club, utility George Campbell, young-guns Dallas and Chad Harrison, Jay Weaver and Jack Walsh and recruit Buddy Braddick, who last played for Berry-Shoalhaven Heads.
With plenty of speed and power among them, mixed in with the creativity service of halves Sam Clune and Paul Roberts, the Eagles should be one of the most dangerous attacking teams in the competition.
The two aforementioned halves will be key in determining how far this Park side can go, because, on their day, both Clune and Roberts, are two of the most dangerous players in the competition - with both possessing strong running and kicking games.
The Illawarra South Coast Dragons representatives will be complemented by rock-solid hooker Brent Wake, who always creates issues for opposing defences with his darting runs - not to mention his huge engine.
Speaking of huge engines, the Eagles will again be counting on inspirational skipper Josh Sainsbury to lead them from the front, in the middle of the park.
Sainsbury, who has finished in the top five of the Michael Cronin Medal voting previously, will presumably start at lock and be joined in the middle of the park by props Tom and Ben Warner, who were both impressive during the first seasons at the nest.
The rest of the Eagles' park will include Rod Coates, Jarryd King, Ryan Jones, Reon Efaraimo, Lewis Hazelton and Ben Scurr - giving the club's coaches plenty of options up front.
"Pre-season has definitely gone up a notch under head trainer Jay Efaraimo and some of the boys are as fit as I've ever seen them," Ian Jones said.
"While we've added a few pieces, the biggest thing for us is we've kept most of our juniors at the club, who are all a year older and stronger, which should bode well in 2021.
"Although we started strong last season, the COVID-19 situation probably threw a fair few of the boys off and we probably weren't as focussed as we needed to be - especially towards the back end of the year with so many injuries.
"That won't be the case this season, as everyone wants to end the club's finals drought.
"We know we have the squad to do it, it's just about proving each week, which starts with Saturday's clash with the Stingrays.
"Both clubs were on the outside of the finals looking in last season and we know they are going to be just as hungry to make that top five, so a win on Saturday will be imperative to starting our season on the foot."
Coach: Scott Stewart.
2020 finish: Premiers.
Additions: Dylan Farrell, Aaron Grigg, Toby-Gumley Quine, Lloyd Bowen, Alec Brookes and Adam Thomson.
Losses: Matt Winchester, Tyran Wishart and Tim Moore.
X-Factor: Dylan Farrell.
With long-time coach Michael Cronin hanging up the clipboard and the likes of Matt Winchester, Tyran Wishart and Tim Moore not playing for the Lions (who were also slated to be without Kayne Brennan before he decided to return) in 2021, many pundits predicted it would be hard for Gerringong (who didn't lose a game in 2020) to go back-to-back.
Those worries were put to bed by the club's numerous additions, most notable 90-game NRL veteran and former Nowra-Bomaderry captain/coach Dylan Farrell.
After three seasons at the Jets, including helping them end their finals drought in 2020, Farrell decided to play for the Lions - a club he played for at under 16s level.
The 29-year-old showed the past few seasons he is more than capable in the halves, as well as in the back-row and middle of the park - giving new coach Scott Stewart plenty of options.
If Farrell does line up in the forward pack, he will do alongside Corey 'Jukebox' Mulhall (who in my opinion is the hardest hitting forward in the competition), goal-kicking back-rower Jake Taylor and the likes of Kal 'Clive' Collins, Judd Collyer, Jordan Chandler, Aaron Grigg, Lloyd Bowen, Ben Grant and Adam Thomson - and I haven't even mentioned hooker Nathan Ford, who's arguably been the competition's top player for the past five or so years.
For a club that has struggled for forward depth in years past, that won't be a problem for the Michael Cronin Oval-based side in 2021.
Because of this depth, Farrell could also line up at five-eighth alongside five-time premiership winner Rixon Russell.
If not Farrell, Rixon could be joined in the halves by his versatile brother Isaac.
Whichever way they line up, those halves will be key in getting a revamped backline involved.
After missing the entire 2020 season with an ankle injury, speedster Toby Gumley-Quine will likely replace Matt Winchester at fullback - a position the former dominated during his last full season in 2019.
His acceleration and support play will be key in the Lions' attack in 2021.
Joining Gumley-Quine in the backline will be youngsters Denver Ford and Hamish Holland, who both excelled during their first full season in the top grade.
Those two will presumably man the right edge, while the left edge will contain three-time premiership winner Joel Doosey and now Kayne Brennan (who has recently decided to return from Wests) - with both Danny Wedd and Jordan Chandler (who could slide out from the back-row) providing cover for both edges.
All these signs point towards another premiership contending season for the Lions.
"I've obviously got some big shoes to fill replacing Mick [Cronin] but I'm very lucky to have an experienced core we have at the club, who are setting the standards at training," Scott Stewart said.
"We won't be changing too much from the past few seasons, as we look to continue our strong run of recent success.
"We've been lucky enough to replace those significant player losses with some very handy players, which we're confident can do a job for us for this season and beyond.
"Unfortunately, with Berry-Shoalhaven Heads withdrawing, we have the bye in round one, meaning our first game of the season will be against Warilla-Lake South in a grand final replay, which will really give us an indication of where we are at as a side.
"We've had plenty of battles with the Warilla over the years and know they'll be right in the mix once again in 2021 - because it seems for as long as we've been going well, so have they.
"Last season was as strong as I've seen Group Seven and I think this season is only going to build in that, which is exciting."
Coach/captain: Jono Dallas.
2020 finish: Lost in the preliminary final.
Additions: Dean Watling, Dillon Johnson and Jack Scurr.
Losses: Kurt Field.
X-Factor: Mark Asquith.
The Jamberoo Superoos have been a model of consistency the past four seasons - winning one premiership (2017), reaching another grand final and playing in two preliminary finals.
And all signs are pointing towards them being right there again in 2021.
At this stage, the only real loss to the Roos' side from last season is outside back Kurt Field.
However, he will be replaced in the backline by the returning Dean Watling, who will join the likes of Jake Clarke, Ben Barnard, Jarryd Smith and Nathan Gallastegui in Jamberoo's outside back stocks.
All of these players have the ability to score points and are experienced in what it takes to succeed in this competition.
On top of that, their continuity with halves Mark Asquith (although there are rumours coming out of Kevin Walsh Oval that James Gilmore might be wearing the number six jersey) and Jono Dallas can't be discounted.
Mark Asquith is one of the most damaging ball-runners in Group Seven and he showed that week in, week out last season, on his way to securing his second club player of the year award.
His instinctive and powerful play complements halfback Jono Dallas perfectly, allowing the latter to pull the strings on offence and dominate the side's kicking.
The final member of the Roos' spine is Daniel Burke, a former Michael Cronin Medal winner, who will start as the club's first-choice hooker.
His heads-up play and ability to get his side on the front foot were on full display last season and I expect it to get even better in 2021.
He can even shift into lock when James Asquith comes off the bench, giving the Roos' a two-headed monster out of dummy-half.
Joining those two hookers in the forward pack this season will be co-reigning Cronin Medal winner Luke Asquith, who has established himself as one of, if not the best, lock in the competition.
His big engine, bone-crunching tackles and ball playing ability allow Jamberoo to play the way they do.
The other key cog to the Roos' forward pack, which also includes Corey Grigg, Gilmore, Simon Maslanka, Kieran Pierce, Kyle Stone, Brendan Smith, Albion Park-Oak Flats' Jack Scurr and Moruya's Dillon Johnson, is prop Jayden Morgan, who in my eyes is the competition's best.
In his first season at Kevin Walsh Oval, the former Dragons NSW Cup forward controlled the middle third of the field for the Roos, regularly having games of more than 30 hit-ups and 30 tackles - statistics which I predict he will go close to replicating again in 2021.
With strength all across the park and no real weakness, the Roos will start the season as one of the competition's favourites.
"We've been very lucky to keep predominantly the same side as last year, which I thought was extra important after how the competition unfolded in 2020," Jono Dallas said.
"It was obviously a tough season, on and off the field for everyone. However, the most important thing was how you came out of it and for that I'm extremely proud of the shape our first grade and club as a whole are in.
"In terms of ability, we were right there last year, so hopefully with a bit of luck, especially in terms of injuries, we can hopefully go a little further than we did.
"Last year, we weren't eliminated because of attitude, effort or ability, we just seem to get our bad luck at the wrong time. I'm confident with a bit more luck, we can go further than we did last season."
Coach: Marc Laird.
2020 finish: Lost in week two of the finals.
Additions: Tyler Clark, Blake Rickard, Cam Cornell and Ethan Ford.
Losses: Cam Vazzoler, Luke Chalker, Tom Angel, Josh Dowel, Sean Payne, Toby Nobes, Cal Thistlethwaite and Tom Harris.
X-Factor: Dylan Morris.
After their three-year grand final streak was ended in 2020, this season presents one of significant change for the Knights.
Premiership-winning coach Matt Clarke has stepped down, being replaced by his off-sider Marc Laird.
While arguably the competition's most electric half Cam Vazzoler has taken his talents to Cec Glenholmes Oval - with forwards Luke Chalker (Dragons NSW Cup), Josh Dowel (Collegians), Tom Angel (Collegians), Sean Payne (Dragons Jersey Flegg), Cal Thistlethwaite (Dapto) and Tom Harris (Warilla-Lake South) following him out the door.
However, the Kiama Showground-based club hasn't just sat on their hands, rather proactively recruiting four former Knights - Tyler Clark, Blake Rickard, Cam Cornell and Ethan Ford - back to the castle.
Clark and Cornell (who's been converted from one of the competition's top wingers into a back-rower), as well as fellow new faces Joel Carroll (Albury) and Parrish Bellette (Tumut), will add some much-needed grunt to the forward pack, which still contains reigning joint-Cronin Medal winner Kieran Poole, dynamic hooker Daniel Martin, hard-workers Matt Gladman and James Brown and young guns Jordan Morn and William Webb.
Rickard is expected to replace Vazzoler in the halves and will line up next to classy five-eighth Tom Atkins, who will be counted on to take his game to the next level in 2021.
While Ford will bolster one of the fastest backlines in the competition, that already features Matt Morris, Brad Kilmore, Jay Delaney and Dylan Morris, who's move to Whitehaven fell through due to COVID-19.
Despite all the losses, the Knights will still be in the hunt for finals, with the spine of Dylan Morris, Atkins, Rickard and Martin all needing to step up and take greater responsibility in 2021.
"I'm really looking forward to the challenge and although we've lost a couple, I'm confident in the squad we've assembled," Marc Laird said.
"There's no doubting it's a rebuilding year for the club in some aspects but I'm confident we can stick with anyone in this competition if we play to our strengths, which will be our outside backs and mobile pack.
"Prior to the premiership in 2019, we were known as one of the quicker teams in the competition that completes at a high percentage and we will be going back to that style of play once again this season."
Coach/captain: Peter Lefley.
2020 finish: Weren't in first grade (reached grand final in reserve grade).
Additions: Ollie Parrish.
Losses: Lachlan Broughton, Jesse Piekar, and Callum Franchi.
X-Factor: Travis Wooden/Cody Roach.
After two strong seasons in reserve grade, the Milton-Ulladulla Bulldogs are back where they belong, which is first grade.
However, the five-time premiership winners know this season is going to be anything but a walk in the park - just like any team returning to the top flight.
Last season's reserve grade grand final appearance is a promising building block, especially with such a talented group of youngsters coming through the ranks.
Those players I allude to include Cody and Lleyton Roach, Elijah Humble, Travis Wooden, Dylan Carriage, Jayden Farmilo, Luke Millard, Ben Russell, Lachie Self, Tom Woodward, James Bewley and Jack Peel - who are the core the club intends to build around for years to come.
A strong start to the season is crucial for the Bulldogs because confidence is invaluable to a young side like this.
On top of that, they probably have the most daunting home ground advantage in the competition.
Travelling down to Bill Andriske Oval on a cold Sunday afternoon is as tough as it gets in Group Seven Rugby League and I'm confident the Bulldogs will surprise a lot of teams in 2021 - just as a young Gorillas outfit did last season.
"There's a massive buzz around the town and everyone has been waiting for our return to first grade for some time," Peter Lefley said.
"We've been a mainstay of this competition for years and it's exciting that I can be a part of helping us re-establish ourselves where we belong.
"The core of our side stems from those two under 18s grand final teams from a couple of years ago, as well as last year's reserve grade outfit that reached the decider.
"The biggest thing for our boys will be getting them into the mindset of playing first grade footy week in, week out, because it's a big step up but I'm confident they are ready.
"The enthusiasm from the boys at the moment is as strong as I've seen it at the club in years and I hope that can lead to a strong start on the field - which is key for us coming back into the top flight.
"It's super important for our community to have a strong first year back in the competition and the bricks we lay this year which will provide the foundations for years to come."
Coach: Ben Wellington.
2020 finish: Knocked out in week one of the finals.
Additions: Jake Gould, Steven Brandon and Mark Brandon.
Losses: Dylan Farrell, Ryan James, Zac Kershaw, Jason Gillard, Saxon Onur, Paul Roberts, Josh Coulter, Tyson Simpson, Mase Harrison and Matt Scott.
X-Factor: Jake Gould.
Six months is a long time in rugby league.
In September, the Jets ended a five-year first grade semi-final drought, only to be bundled out by Kiama in week one.
Since then, a lot has changed.
The majority of the Jets' first grade squad has left the club.
Ryan James, Zac Kershaw and Tyson Simpson went to Shellharbour, while Dylan Farrell and Paul Roberts headed to Gerringong and Albion Park-Oak Flats respectively.
Others to leave to clubs outside Group Seven include Saxon Onur (Collegians), Jason Gillard (Collegians), Matt Scott (Thirlmere) and Mase Harrison (Batemans Bay).
As you can see, a drastically different Jets outfit, who will be captain/coached by Ben Wellington, will take to the field in 2021.
However, that doesn't mean they can be discounted, especially with the addition of livewire trio Jake Gould, Steven Brandon and Mark Brandon.
Gould, who returns to the club after a year off, is one of the fastest and most dangerous ball-runners in the competition and is sure to give the Jets a new dimension at the back.
While the Brandon brothers, who are juggling both rugby union and rugby league commitments in 2021, were key cogs to the Jets' maiden premiership in 2014 and are sure to provide plenty of points and excitement for the Jets' faithful.
Wellington's squad also still contains plenty of proven first graders such as forwards Matt Rouen, Trent Waldron, Nick Falzon, James Toovey and Kuyan Wellington (who shifts from the outside backs to the second-row) - as well as hooker Kurt Quinlan.
While the backline is also expected to contain Braydon Walsh, Jayden Brody, Nathan Falzon, Jacob Dolan and utility Kealen Blattner - who could line in the halves alongside Steven Brandon in round one.
Although the Jets will go into the season as underdogs, expect them to turn plenty of heads in 2021 with their counter-attacking style of football.
"It was a real rocky start throughout the pre-season with a lot of negative talk but we've managed to come together and field teams in both first and reserve grade," Ben Wellington said.
"Not to mention the under 18s are looking really strong, with both solid performances in their trials against Mittagong and Batemans Bay.
"While we don't have a great deal of depth this year, we are a tight bunch of brothers that are prepared to give it a crack each week.
"The strengths of our squad will come from playing for one another, becoming a closer unit and believing in the guy beside you.
"Building our club spirit up again is going to vital and will determine how we perform week in, week out.
"Everyone at the club has taken confidence from last year's reserve grade title, as it's helped build morale and belief at the club - giving hope and self gratitude for everyone involved."
Coach: Abed Atallah.
2020 finish: Missed the finals.
Additions: Ryan James, Zac Kershaw, Chris Browne, Brock Skelly, Ian Catania, Tyson Simpson, Jye Brooker and Scott Hogan.
Losses: Juvi Samui, Donte Efaraimo and Kiran Tranter.
X-Factor: Ryan James.
The 2020 season, earmarked to be one of the biggest in the club's history, was a disappointment for the Sharks.
From not being able to celebrate their centenary season because of COVID-19 to missing semi-final football (after losing to Jamberoo in the final round) for the first time in more than a decade, all involved with the Ron Costello Oval-based club know their performance last year wasn't good enough.
With the being the case, I expect Abed Atallah and his troops to bounce back in a big way in 2021.
Although they've lost three key starters from last season in Juvi Samui, Donte Efaraimo and Kiran Tranter, the Sharks squad has well and truly been strengthened.
Nowra-Bomaderry trio Zac Kershaw, Tyson Simpson and Ryan James have all joined the club, with the latter two coming into the season off strong showings with the Illawarra South Coast Dragons.
All three are expected to line up in the forwards, with both Simpson and James having the ability to play in the backs if needed.
They'll join the likes of Ryan McCracken, Liam Scott, Kade Sampson, Dane Sablowski, Abe Atallah, Declan Morrissy, James Roussell (all returning from last season) and Brad Chapman (back at the club after a season off) in the engine room.
The key to this forward pack is hooker Brock Skelly, who returns to the club after stints with Wests and Jamberoo.
Although he's spent time at five-eighth in the past, I believe his best position is at nine, as shown by his outstanding play during Jamberoo's grand final run in 2019.
The crafty hooker is expected to be joining in the Sharks' spine by skipper and halfback Matt Carroll, Chris Browne (who joins from Camden) and fullback Jacob Seabrook.
Carroll is one of the most experienced halves in the competition and still has, in my opinion, the best kicking game - regularly turning teams around and forcing them to play it out from deep inside their own ends.
While Browne, a former Camden Rams skipper, will compliment Carroll in the halves, with his speed and ability to play what's in front of him - with Seabrook showing at the end of last season he can be dangerous from the back if given too much space.
Rounding out the Atallah's side, who will be wearing black and white jerseys in 2021 as a throwback to the club's inaugural season, will be outside backs Matt Forsyth, Kane Chapman, Jye Brooker, Wayde Aitken (who will miss the start of the season with a foot injury), Scott Hogan and Fuimanu Enese, who will all no doubt terrorise plenty of opposing sides in 2021.
As such, it would take a very brave man to tip an Abed Atallah-coached side to miss the finals in two straight seasons - with me predicting they'll return to the post-season in 2021.
"As disappointing as last season was for us as a club, we've all learnt from it and are all really looking forward to making amends in 2021," Abed Atallah said.
"There's a really exciting buzz around the place, with a couple of new faces and the club celebrating the 100th season this year.
"With a fair a bit of turnover in player personnel, we've tweaked our style of play a little, to better suit our squad - putting them in the best position to succeed each week.
"We pride ourselves on our defence and if we get that right, with the strike weapons we have in our side, I'm confident our attack will take care of itself."
Stingrays of Shellharbour
Coaches: Greg 'Buster' Reh and Brad Reh.
2019 finish: Missed finals.
Additions: Juvi Samui, Troy Errington, Jayden Harris, Rod Manuela, Jaime Cairney, Ben Weatherall, Luke Shiels, Temana Te Maari and Dylan Weatherall.
Losses: Jiye Ellis.
X-Factor: Troy Errington.
Year one of the Reh brothers regime showed plenty of positive signs for the Stingrays, with the club winning three games (which was one more than they'd won the three seasons combined).
Now with that style of play in place, key players staying at the club, plus a couple of new additions, the Rays appear destined to continue that upwards trajectory in 2021.
Those players the club has retained include inspirational skipper and lock forward Kieran Rankmore, powerhouse prop Jake Kamire, damaging centre Chanse Perham (with all three playing in the ISC Dragons side this season alongside Juvi Samiu) and half Zaan Weatherall - highlighting the club is headed in the right direction.
After having one of the biggest sides in Group Seven in 2020, the Rays get even larger this year.
Starting in the front row, Kamire and recruit Juvi Samui easily combine to make the biggest prop pairing in the competition - with them being joined by Rankmore in the middle of the park.
Joining that trio will be other strong forwards Dylan Weatherall, Anthony Nabbe, Rod Manuela, Matt Murray, Luke Shiels and Jaime Cairney, as well as hookers Hamish McLaurin and Jayden Sergeant.
Weatherall, who wore the number seven jersey in 2020, will shift to five-eighth and play alongside halfback Troy Errington, who last played with the Guildford Owls.
The latter's combination with Weatherall and direction around the park will be crucial in determining how far the Rays go in 2021.
Rounding of the Flinders Field-based side's squad will be outside backs Perham, Jayden Harris (who returns to his junior club after a stint with Albion Park-Oak Flats), Josh Ward, Temana Te Maari, James Scott, Eze Harper and Josh Adu, who all have the ability to be game-breakers.
With all this being the case, as well as plenty of solid youngsters like Jack Bostock, Colby Smith, Toby Peters and Trey Barlow coming through the ranks, the Rays will firmly have their sights on their maiden semi-final appearance in the top grade.
"Last season was all about putting plans in place to change the club's systems and culture, which we thought we did in a very positive season for the club," Brad Reh said.
"We got two solid wins in a shortened season, which is a huge step forward for the club compared to previous years - our standing in the community is now as good as it's ever been.
"It was then key we retained our first grade squad, which we did while adding a couple of pieces we thought the club needed.
"There's a great vibe at the club now and everyone is ready to help the club secure its first semi-final spot - we're not here to make up the numbers.
"We didn't do it intentionally but our size across the park is incredible and will definitely be one of our strengths this season.
"And with such a strong junior base, which we are emphasising keeping in our system, all signs are pointing to the club's best ever season in the top grade."
Warilla-Lake South Gorillas
Coaches: Troy Grant and Neil Farmilo.
2020 finish: Grand finalists.
Additions: Cam Vazzoler, Liam Quinn, Tom Harris, Aaron Henry, Tyson Brown and Lloyd Thomas.
Losses: Sam Hooper, Josh Dowel and Callum Gromek.
X-Factor: Justin Jones.
The young Gorillas shocked everyone, myself included, last season by reaching the big dance.
And although they lost to the Lions in the decider, the club will take plenty of confidence from that going into 2021.
By retaining the majority of their squad, bar Sam Hooper, Josh Dowel and Callum Gromek who are playing with the Dragons' Jersey Flegg side, Warilla-Lake South was already going to be in the mix for the premiership.
However, with the addition of former Cronin Medal and arguably the top halfback in the competition Cam Vazzoler, who will join Blair Grant (who ended the 2020 season as the competition's form player) in the halves, Warilla's premiership hopes were massively boosted.
Not to mention the additions of Tom Harris (Kiama) and Liam Quinn (Stingrays) and the return of former Gorillas Aaron Henry, Lloyd Thomas and Tyson Brown - who will add plenty of experience to the side.
Despite forwards Henry and Thomas and centre Brown being in the mix, I still expect the Gorillas to play a fast, second-phase orientated style, which made them extremely hard to play against in 2020.
Henry and Thomas will replace the hard-working Josh Dowel in the middle of the park and team up with, in my eyes, one of the most impressive players towards the back end of last season, Guy Rosewarn.
With those three, Jake Goody, Hayden Goody, Oscar Fitzpatrick and Dean Hodgson manning the middle of the park, the Gorillas will once again be a terror in the engine room.
Add in robust back-rowers Tom Harris, Duke Grant and Jamie Burns - as well as Jake Brisbane (who will shift from the halves to back-row once he returns from injury) - and the Cec Glenholmes Oval-based side have one, if not the best forward packs on the South Coast.
The most important part of this side though is their halves, who spent time together in Wade Forrester's ISC Dragons this season.
Although both Vazzoler and Grant are ball-dominant halves, they've shown they are more than capable to sharing their orchestrating responsibilities (Vazzoler with Tom Atkins and Grant with Jake Brisbane).
If this pair fire and play up to their potential, they'll easily be the most dangerous halves in the competition, with the combination of running, ball-playing, speed and kicking games, which is a frightening thought for opposition sides, especially when fullback Justin Jones is running off them.
In his first season in Group Seven, Jones took the competition by storm and with Matt Winchester retiring, he comes into the season as the competition's number one fullback in my eyes.
If there's an Achilles heel to the Gorillas side in 2021, it has to be their outside backs surrounding Jones.
Youngsters Liam Vane Tempest, Darnell Walker and Kye Deane all had huge moments in 2020 and will be looking to continue their improvement this year, especially with Tyson Brown leading by example - with the likes of Tyler Atkins and Dane Nelson also in the mix for round one spots.
The final Warilla spark-plug worth mentioning is Tyrone Roberts, who is as explosive as any other utility in the competition.
With all these factors being considered, no one is sleeping on the Gorillas in 2021 and they'll be right in the mix when the whips are cracking in September.
"We had a very young team last season, which was a positive in some aspects, while also letting us down in others," Neil Farmilo said.
"However, with the additions of Aaron [Henry], Lloyd [Thomas] and Tyson [Brown] who are all experienced first graders, we should be better across the board in 2021.
"Cam [Vazzoler] is a class player, who will add a lot to our team and take pressure off Blair to run the show.
"Those two and a majority of our squad have been mates since they were little and we're trying to build our club around them for years to come and I always feel you play that little bit harder for your mates.
"We're going into the season confident but we know there's a lot of hills we have to jump over before we get that premiership - I've always been one to emphasise doing the little things right can lead to big things and this year will be no different.
"Last year we probably snuck up on some sides but this year we know we're going to be the hunted each and every week."
Ladder after home and away season: 1. Jamberoo, 2. Warilla-Lake South, 3. Gerringong, 4. Shellharbour, 5. Stingrays, 6. Kiama, 7. Albion Park-Oak Flats, 8. Nowra-Bomaderry and 9. Milton-Ulladulla.
Leading point scorer: Blair Grant (Warilla-Lake South).
Leading try scorer: Justin Jones (Warilla-Lake South)
Best recruit: Cam Vazzoler (Warilla-Lake South)/Dylan Farrell (Gerringong)
Michael Cronin Medal winner: Jayden Morgan (Jamberoo)
Grand final: Jamberoo vs Warilla-Lake South, with the Superoos winning the Artie Smith Trophy for the second time in five seasons.