With recruits like Manny Sandow (South Warrnambool), Jack Gleeson (Koroit) and Nathan Krepp (South Rovers) onlookers have Merrivale pegged as a premiership contender this year.
But coach Josh Sobey says the hard work is all ahead of his team which lost a Warrnambool and District league semi-final to Old Collegians in 2019.
"We're not going to hide from the fact that we're striving to play finals but we haven't won a final since 2015 so we're under no illusions there," he said.
"We've got to work hard and we've set some pretty strong goals internally. We understand it's only round one.
"We haven't beaten Old Collegians either for a very long time so can't wait for Friday and the year ahead."
The Tigers' campaign begins on Good Friday when it faces the Warriors at Davidson Oval.
It will be the first WDFNL match since the grand final in September 2019.
"The boys are definitely ready, so are the coaching staff," Sobey said.
"We have had a fantastic pre-season and I think everyone in the community is ready for footy this week."
Sobey said Jyron Neave had "really caught our eye" in the Tigers' practice games.
"He's very crafty and very quick and I'm looking forward to working with him this year and seeing how far he can go," he said.
The Tigers played Horsham District club Harrow-Balmoral and Hampden club, Warrnambool, in warm-up matches.
"I hope they take the same confidence (as the practice matches) but at the same time being relaxed and really apply what we've been training for," Sobey said of what he wanted to see Friday.
"We've put some hard work in, we've had consistent numbers for a while and now it's just about bringing that practice to match day."
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