It's finally here. After seven years (and a few months courtesy of COVID-19) in the wilderness the Western Premier League is back.
The competition has the potential to take football in the region to a new level and uncover some new stars of the game.
The first round of the revamped league begins this weekend and Australian Community Media (ACM) writers from across the west have taken a look at every club ahead of one of the most anticipated competitions in these parts in some time.
Coach: Jason Schink
Captain: Scott Fox and Kobe Rapley.
Player to watch: Thomas Busch.
The Busch name is synonymous with the Bulls in recent years and youngster Thomas is ready to take the step to the next level this year. Coach Schink said the central midfielder is "in for one hell of a season".
While the likes of Fox, James Leonard and Nelson Flick are WPL stalwarts, it's some of the younger players who could well make the difference for the Bulls.
Best thing about WPL return: "My main reason for supporting it is the young kids," Schink said.
"It's for those who might not want to go away or play with Western It's something for them and at 17, 18, and 19 you want to play at the top level. We might not have a lot of young fella but it was my main reason."
ACM's say: So long the premier side in Dubbo, the Bulls are back in WPL. They won the last title in 2012 and while much has changed since then much of the side is still the same. The core group which has done it all before can help the Bulls hit the ground running and in a short competition that can make all the difference. A club used to success, they won't accept standards dropping this season.
Predicted finish: First
Coach: Rob Dawson
Captain: Josh Summerson
Player to watch: Jackson Fula
Fula will be Dawson's Mr Fix-It in the Barnies line-up. He'll start as a midfielder but can be thrown to all ends of the ground and his level-headedness will be a dynamic part of the side. Also has a burst of speed which may prove really damaging through the middle to help feed the ball into star Brazillian striker Paulo Victor Grassi.
Best thing about WPL return: "It's good the clubs were able to hold together and help each other to get it off the ground," said Dawson.
"The coverage we'll get with radio and newspapers and on TV should give us a really good chance to get ourselves out there."
ACM's say: Barnstoneworth have been going blow-for-blow with Waratahs for the title of top dog in Orange for a long time now, but with their rivals in blue pulling out of the WPL they have new foes to fight. They'll be very competitive and coach Rob Dawson's made no secret of his side's desire to be there in the final, and we reckon they might get there.
Predicted finish: Second
Panorama Football Club
Colours: Red and black
Coach: Ricky Guihot
Captain: Ryan Peacock
Player to watch: Mitch Cooper.
Unlike other clubs with some big name returning from Sydney or someone else, it could be a younger star who really goes up a level for the Goats this year. Cooper has been singled out as someone who could take the leap, with team manager Brent Osborne saying the 18-year-old is really making the change froma boy to a man on the pitch.
Best thing about WPL return: "It provides a level of competition we didn't have before for footballers across the region that want to challenges themselves a bit more than what the local grades offer. The fact Bathurst aren't playing Orange, Dubbo and the towns centres around us is just madness in my opinion," Brent Osborne said.
ACM's say: There's no doubt Panorama have been the most vocal voice for reigniting the WPL. So that shows the level of enthusiasm. For a number of years the club's best players have been spread across two teams in Bathurst District Football first grade, so this year will be the first chance we get to see the Goats at their full potential. A finals appearance will be expected and anything less will be a big disappointment.
Predicted finish: Third
Colours: Blue and red
Captain-coach: Jared Dudley
Player to watch: Joel Tongue.
He's certain to be one of the fastest players in the competition and he's the kind of player who can get fans on their feet this season. Capable of playing in numerous positions, the Spurs junior is likely to feature on the wing now he's back with his hometown club after a stint in Sydney. He's only relatively young but has a wealth of experience and will be a real threat for Spurs.
Best thing about WPL return: "It's just more variety," said Spurs captain Dudley.
"You can challenge yourself against the region's best instead of playing the same team here three or four times a year. Hopefully it brings more players and more competition. It's only going to get bigger."
ACM's say: A side to watch. There's no doubt Spurs could win the title this season. The champion of the Dubbo competition last year, Spurs have been boosted by the returns of Joel Tongue and Ben Manson. They have lost a few players after the COVID-enforced lockdown and captain Jared Dudley admits fitness will be a little bit of a concern early on. It could take them a couple of rounds to get going but this is a side which could be peaking at the right time.
Predicted finish: Fourth
Coach: Martin Hunter
Captain: Ben Sheehan
Player to watch: Everyone, according to Hunter.
"There is 15 of us," he said. "Followed by the best club supporters in the west."
Best thing about WPL return: Competitiveness of each and every game, said Hunter.
ACM's say: Workies claimed the Bathurst District Football men's premier league grand final last year, so what's stopping them from winning this too? There's a few younger players coming through the ranks so it will be interesting to see how they handle the competition but they will be one of the sides most affected by travel. The side also suffered a blow when former captain Matt Nunan suffered a broken leg in a trial match but he'll still remain a key figure on the sidelines. Don't write them off though. No matter the sport Lithgow sides are some of the toughest around.
Predicted finish: Fifth
Colours: Purple and black
Coach: Meghan Kempson
Captain: Brent Tucker
Player to watch: Brent 'BJ' Morgan.
Morgan is back for Parkes after playing for the Western Mariners previously. Much is expected of Morgan's partnership with Forbes recruit Shane Percy up front. It could be one of the most dangerous combinations in the competition, especially if captain Brent Tucker can supply them with plenty of ball from midfield.
Best thing about WPL return: "Not only will it give talented footballers a chance to play at a higher level, it will also give juniors a pathway to keep excelling at the world game," Cobars player and committee member Adam Parker said.
"For the past seven years, juniors had the ability to play in higher leagues throughout the Central West but then as they aged out, the next step had to be playing for the Western Mariners in the Sydney league which involved travelling over an hour for training and up to five hours for games on a regular basis. Now that the WPL is back and Parkes have a team these juniors have something to work towards opposed to switching sports.
ACM's say: The Cobras have been raving about head coach Meghan Kempson and from all reports players have risen to a new technical level under her tutelage. It's clear, despite being underdogs heading into the season, that they aren't going to pushovers.
The Cobras are a brand new club created just for this WPL campaign and the beauty of that is no one knows what they'll bring to the table. That can be an advantage.
Predicted finish: Sixth
Colours: Sky blue
Coach: Paul Crain
Player to watch: Cameron Kopp.
Another who brings a wealth of experience back to the competition after time away, youngster Kopp returns to Dubbo after his university studies.
A former Western Mariners player, Kopp is able to play in the centre of midfield or in defence and will help keep the youthful Macquarie side ticking over.
Best thing about WPL return: "It's a different level and it's fantastic for Central West football," said coach Paul Crain.
"There will hopefully be some really good football and and next year hopefully there could be reserves, or a women's competition or under 18s. It's building."
ACM's say: Macquarie has consistently been one of the top clubs in Dubbo in recent years but this marks a real step up. The side will be relying on a lot of youth as well while other clubs feature numerous players who played in the previous iteration of the WPL or have spent time in Sydney.
Coach Paul Crain is hoping to push for a top four finish and while this young side will certainly entertain and cause some headaches they might just be a little bit off the top few clubs.
Predicted finish: Seventh