Reigning Limestone Coast Rugby League premier Warrnambool Raiders is preparing to welcome returning and new players to the fold as it looks to defend its crown this season.
The rugby league competition returns for the first time since December 2019 after it was put on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with round one to kick off on Saturday September 17.
Five teams will take part in the competition from various parts of the south-west and South Australia, with Blue Lake Knights, Naracoorte Jets, Gunditjmara Bulls, Warrnambool Raiders and Stawell Mounties all locked in for what will be a tightly-fought senior season.
The competition - run by NRL South Australia - consists of a 12-week regular season and two weeks of finals.
Raiders president and assistant coach Jonathan Hukatai told The Standard the club was delighted at the competition's relaunch this season and was stoked with the interest in joining the side.
The Raiders will play home games at Friendly Societies' Park in Warrnambool alongside the Gunditjmara Bulls.
"It's very exciting to have it back, due to having a two-year break from the game we're now getting a lot of players who weren't old enough to play back then - we've got a lot of players as far as Camperdown to utilise now which is great," he said.
"We've opened our club up to whoever wants to try the game for the first time - being an Aussie rules dominated area it's (rugby league) not really on peoples' tongues out here so it's just getting the game out there to people and down the track we can then focus on the women's and juniors grades."
Hukatai said the Raiders were excited to defend their premiership crown from 2019 and believed the group was well placed to have a strong season despite some changes to the playing list.
"We've got some big changes (to the list) - we had a good handful from Metro, so we're limited on that now but we've gained a lot of locals to put our focus into," he said.
The Raiders mentor said the on-field results were clearly important but believed it was vital the club reached out to anyone interested in simply learning about the sport after the hiatus set them back.
"Having new guys, our older experienced players are helping the youngsters learn more about the game, down the track we hope to implement a new game called 'TAG' which is a non-contact rugby league game the competition is introducing so that should be good," he said.
For information, head to Limestone Coast Rugby League Facebook page.
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