Teams from the Big Rivers football league will get their first look at one another at the Umpires Carnival this weekend as player movements look to drastically impact standings this year.
The Beswick Bears have now become the second team to drop out of the 2020 season, citing a lack of numbers and cohesion coming out of the disruption of COVID-19.
Eastside Blues also dropped out earlier in the month for similar reasons, but the league will be bolstered by the return of famous football community Ngukurr Bulldogs to the mix.
With star players from both Eastside and Beswick out looking for a new home for this year, it has quickly become anybody's guess where the standings might end up once the dust settles.
Perennial cellar-dwellers Tindal seem primed to be the biggest beneficiary as news filtered through today Eastside's talented core of premiership heroes will make their way out to the Magpies.
The Umpires Carnival can't host crowds this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the Cossack family in particular's impact will be keenly observed by rival coaches and players on Saturday.
AFLNT's new Regional Development Manager for Big Rivers Gavin May tipped them to surprise a lot of people at the carnival this weekend.
"I've barely been home this week as I get out and see all the community teams training and make sure they're going well for the season ahead," he said.
"Beswick unfortunately just haven't had the engagement needed for them to be confident about this season, so they've decided to call it for this year rather than potentially mess around other teams.
"They and Eastside will both be back next year though as they still have good solid organisations on the ground.
"Ngukurr have to deal with a lot of travel, but they're training a lot and they're extremely quick, so if they can be consistent they will be hard to beat.
"Camels are extremely well-drilled and as premiers from last year you'd expect them to be back around the top again this year.
"I think it's the Tindal team though which will really surprise people, they've struggled in past years but having picked up a whole bunch of Eastside guys their side will definitely improve," Mr May said.
Katherine Crocs have also been extremely proactive on the phone to Beswick and Eastside players, as they try make a run back into the top two after falling in the elimination final last year.
Kalano Bombers were out in force Thursday night after showing glimpses of premier footy last year, with 17-year-old half-forward Henry Driver in particular showing his class.
Northern Warlpiri is set to be bolstered by players unable to compete in the cancelled Desert Carnival down South.
The Arnhem Crows' organisation is going from strength to strength as they field a women's team for the first time this year alongside their runner-up men's outfit.
The women's fixtures for Saturday will feature clashes between Arnhem, Eastside, Tindal, Katherine South and the Camels in an expanded women's competition this year.
Yet so much is still unknown going into Saturday in a league which is still finalising their fixture a week out from the season.
Gavin May also drew attention today to higher stands for reporting of all kinds of abuse on the field this year, including racism but also against officials and umpires.
"We're applying a new abuse matrix which allows us to more effectively and heavy-handedly lay down sanctions for those sorts of incidents," he said.
"That matrix has been applied both in Darwin and in Central Australia, and we've had some really good results in limiting abuse of all kinds from that.
"I have a long history working in leagues and communities where racism has been an issue on the football field and it absolutely will not be tolerated.
"We've had some significant instances in the past and those teams involved will be playing under only the most senior referees when they face up this season," Mr May said.
A full fixture for this season will be released Monday or Tuesday after AFLNT meets with club staff over the weekend.
Games will be ticketed at $7 a head for adults and $2 each for children.
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox each Friday at 6am from the Katherine Times. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up here.