With footballs flying, kids laughing and AFL footballers in tow, there was no better place for the Central West AFL season to be launched than at the Paul Kelly Cup at Waratahs on Wednesday.
There's a buzz building around season 2019, as seven sides will line up in the competition with the return of the Cowra Blues and the Orange Tigers scrapping to defend their 2018 title after losing a number of key players.
Meanwhile both Bathurst clubs are prowling - the Bushrangers to reclaim the title of top dog while the Giants want to finally show the new kids on the blocks have grown some teeth and will mount an assault on premiership glory.
Orange Tigers will have to fight hard to retain their crown, as the club has lost key pillars of last year's flags in spearhead Tim Barry and Michael and Chris Rothnie, with the latter passing away in February.
Despite the loss of talent, second-year player Nate Romeo said the club still had the expectation to be there in the pointy end of the season.
"It's going to look different in terms of our team but we're not going in to not win."
One of the clubs sneaking up on them are the Bathurst Giants, who fell two points short of the Tigers in the semi-final last season, and despite losing Franky Bright to Cowra and Nate Belbin, Giants player Mitch Taylor said that was a driving force in the preseason.
"We're hoping we can work as a team and use our game-plans as best as we can. We lost some key players but have picked up some new players," he said.
Bright, who has returned to Cowra after his old club wasn't able to form a side in 2018, said the club was "looking real good", with plenty of younger players coming into the side.
While the club doesn't yet have a full playing roster, Bright said traditionally the side only comes together just before round one.
He's probably the reason the club's travelling the way it is at the moment, everyone likes him and he's so approachable.Franky Bright talking about Ben Rodin
"We're just excited to be back, there's a different vibe this year and a lot of young fellas this year and it gives us older fellas the chance to relax a bit more and there's no expectation," he said.
"It's a positive sign for the CWAFL that Cowra's back."
Cowra have also signed Ben Rodin as the new head coach which Bright said was working wonders.
"Benny's going absolutely excellent, he's very switched on and is understanding of the position we're in and has brought a whole new intensity to what we're doing and has a strict game-plan he wants us to follow which is exciting," he said.
"He's probably the reason the club's travelling the way it is at the moment, everyone likes him and he's so approachable with a nice calm manner and it's great for the club he was able to jump onboard."
Parkes player Aaron Halls said the Panthers were looking to build this season to be in a position to assault the top four in 2020, and were hoping to gain players from other leagues.
"We've lost a few players from last year but we're hoping to get a few players from Condobolin [who folded this season], and we're meeting them this week to get them to come down and have a game," Halls said.
"We've got about 20 and seven or eight who are shift workers.
He said having two byes the two weeks after round one would help the club build numbers early-season.
"I think this season is getting through unscathed and getting some numbers back next year with seven or eight coming back. We've had good numbers in the past two or three weeks," he said.
Meanwhile, Bushrangers legend Brian Matheson, who retired last season after 400 games with the club, said he knew his players were raring to go for season 2019 after the pain of losing last year's grand final.
The club has gained several new recruits in the off-season who Matheson said would boost the club's stocks.
The season begins on April 6.
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