WARRNAMBOOL Rangers conceded one goal in 10 matches before COVID-19 restrictions wiped out their Ballarat and District Soccer Association championship ambitions last season.
Teenager Will van der Starre, who has moved to Geelong for university, will be absent from the stingy back line when the Rangers open their 2022 campaign against Maryborough on Sunday in Ballarat.
But coach Cameron Pyke, who also doubles as the club's president, said it would remain a defensively-strong outfit.
"Will was a key factor in our defence last year and one of the main reasons we only conceded one goal all year," he said.
"Each year comes with different challenges and last year we tried something different with our formation and that helped us be more solid defensively.
"This year we'll retain Connor Bellman, Cameron Jennings and Jonas Welsh and those three were very important for us in the back line.
"We're not holding ourselves to any ridiculous standards. Last year to only concede one was something quite amazing.
"We're not going in with expectations to do the same but we know what we're capable of so we're trying to put our best foot forward."
Two returning players - Michael Loughhead and Keegan Picken - are back at Jones Oval while van der Starre and Clinton Demartin are omissions.
"Clinton, who was one of our more prolific goal scorers with Ryan (Bail), is playing volleyball," Pyke said.
"Clinton is fairly talented. I think he's won best and fairests for the volleyball league in Warrnambool a couple of times and he's trying out for a state league set up."
Warrnambool's women's team will make its return on Sunday after a hiatus. It will also play Maryborough on the road.
"It's been really positive we've been able to get that back up and running," Pyke said.
"It will be good to get a team back on the pitch after all the hard work (the late) Jim Gray has done with the team and to honour his legacy would be good.
"There's a good portion of our (South West Victoria Football Association) under 16 side that have stepped up.
"They are champing at the bit to get out there and see if they're up to the level and give it a red-hot crack."
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