As usual, the weekly competition is likely to get off to a slow start as teams pick up momentum after a couple of rounds to battle for the semi-final spot.
Questions about the fitness of players may come to the fore in the after-match interviews, with lack of match fitness expected to affect the quality of display in today’s battles.
Despite that, the teams remain hopeful of a perfect start to their campaign.
The derby between Tupapa Panthers and TKV Warriors is expected to be an intense one given the rivalry between the two villages.
The match to be played at Victoria Park will probably give the Panthers a slight edge in terms of territory and experience.
However, the Warriors under new coach Nia Petero will be no pushover as they will try to get their campaign off to a flying start.
Panthers coach Darren Piri expects a tough battle from the visitors but is hopeful of a win.
“This is the first game and I know both teams will play hard to win it. As expected with other games, this is just the start of the season so we don’t really know where we stand (in fitness and combination),” Piri said.
Panthers will have most of the players who featured for them in last year’s competition while there are some making their return in the team.
Piri hopes that the training sessions they held this week will help the team find the right combinations to get them off to a good start.
“I would like to wish all the teams the very best in the opening round and the rest of the competition.”
In the other premier clash, Arorangi Bears will head in as favourites against the Ngatangiia/Matavera Sea Eagles at Raemaru Park.
On paper and based on the form of both teams at last month’s Nines tournament, Bears are likely to have an easy run and the onus will be on the Sea Eagles to snatch the match points away from the host.
Matches are expected to start at 4.30pm today.