DEFENDING Group 11 premiers Dubbo Macquarie have started their preparations for the 2013 Group 11 season with about 20 players attending their first pre-season training sessions prior to the Christmas break.
With new coach John Grey at the helm, the Raiders did light ballwork sessions as well as some fitness training, with Grey adamant the training wasn't too strenuous.
Moses Manu, Ash Conn, Mason Williams, Zac Rennick and Bob Weir Medallist Josh Merritt were among the top graders at the first sessions.
"I was surprised to see so many there but it was a pleasant surprise. These sessions weren't compulsory," Grey said.
"A lot of the boys that turned up were juniors keen to get themselves into a first grade spot and it is good to see that kind of enthusiasm.
"The other good thing was that we had a few forwards turn up, which is unusual, but it shows the calibre of the blokes we have at the club and that is one of the reasons we had the success we did last season."
Despite losing Group 11 representatives Jade Williams and Jeremy Smith to Group 9 clubs, the Raiders have been doing some recruiting in the off-season - their most recent addition being Castlereagh League star Tom Wilson.
A utility back, Wilson was a key player in the Warren Bulldogs run to the 2012 title but Grey admits he hasn't guaranteed anyone a place in the top grade next season.
"For me, it all depends on how the boys train and go in the trials," Grey said.
"We have good depth in the club but at the same time we have holes with some guys leaving so there are spots available for the boys that put in and show they are deserving of a spot."
Despite the rigours of his first coaching gig and impending fatherhood, Grey will again be putting his hand up for representative football in 2013, admitting he would relish the chance to play Tier 1 with Western Division if selected.
"I've spoken with (Western Division coach) Dennis Moran and indicated that I'll put my hand up and hopefully my form will be good enough that I can get a guernsey," Grey said.
"I think having Western Division back is a good chance for the guys in not only Group 11 but also Group 10 to test themselves at a higher level because there are a lot of very talented footballers in this region.
"Over the past couple of years Group 10 haven't gone far in the Tier 2 championship but some of their guys are more than capable of mixing it at that higher level so it will allow that to happen."