Lambton Jaffas coach David Tanchevski believes his squad will be at only 70 per cent for Friday night's Charity Shield clash with Broadmeadow Magic at Jack McLaughlan Oval as they prepare for their dual title defence in the NPL men's NNSW.
Northern NSW Football will for the first time hold a pre-season double-header Charity Shield night.
NPL champions Broadmeadow play State Cup winners Maitland at 6.15pm in the women's game, while the men's match starts at 8.15pm. All gate proceeds from the night, and the next two years of Charity Shield, go to the Hunter Medical Research Institute. A clubs-driven men's Charity Shield was held in pre-season several years ago.
Lambton edged Magic by a point in the men's premiership last year before beating them with an injury-time winner in the grand final. Broadmeadow won the State Cup.
Jaffas have since added James Oates (Manly), Matthew Buettner (Sydney Olympic), Matt Cahill (North West Sydney), Tom Waller (year off), Sean Pratt (Maitland), Oscar Crakanthorp (Jets Youth), the son of Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp, and Cale Graham (Magic). Their losses are Matt Hoole (Maitland), Josh Piddington, Charlie Kelly (New Lambton), Dylan Newbold (Charlestown), Kaleb Cox and Michael Finlayson.
Lambton's recruitment has been strong but Cahill won't play until April because of a back injury from a mountain bike fall, while Pratt (calf) is also sidelined. Tanchevski said the club had gained Sascha Montefiore (Edgeworth) but he is now out for the year with a knee injury.
"We've had some losses in personnel but we've got a fairly deep squad," Tanchevski said.
"I feel like we're a bit underdone. We had a good break after winning the grand final. The boys needed some time off, so we probably started a bit later than other teams, so I think we are at probably 70 per cent.
"We'll be treating this as another trial game and limiting guys' minutes. There's a trophy up for grabs but we're more worried about preparing for the season. We'll be trying to win, but we'll be making sure we get the boys through it."
Broadmeadow have also had changes under new coach Jim Cresnar. They have lost Keanu Moore and Xander Woweries (Edgeworth), while Jacob Harris has retired. Adding to last year's squad is keeper Lewis Alvarez (Mariners youth), Luke Cochrane (Central Coast United), Tom Beecham (US college), Nic Kacev (Jets Youth), Tom Parkes and former USA under-19 attacker Alex Rose.
Forward Josh Benson was part of the young squad who pushed the Jaffas all the way last year and he believes they are ready to challenge again.
"I think we are playing better than last year and we'll have a better chance," Benson said.
"We have a different playing style, which I think suits us more and we are looking very promising.
"This is another trial game but there's silverware up for grabs so we're going to want to jump on that. It will be good to get some before the season even starts."