Doncaster RLFC will need to hit the ground running if they are to throw down the gauntlet to their 2019 Betfred League One rivals in the opening month of the season.
The Dons could hardly have had a tougher start to their fourth campaign in League One with games, two at home and two on the road, against teams who are likely to prove the biggest threats to their hopes of a return to the Championship.
Richard Horne’s side kick off their season against Newcastle Thunder at Kingston Park where they struggled to beat their hosts (22-20) early last season.
Newcastle finished last season strongly by winning five of their last six fixtures – their only defeat being a 38-21 reversal at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Although they had given themselves just a little too much to do to make the play-offs, wins over the likes of Oldham, Workington and Hunslet during the run-in played an important role in helping the Dons secure third spot.
Newcastle have followed up their signing of former French scrum-half Remy Marginet in the second half of last season with former Super League star Liam Finn and the likes of former Dons, Sheffield and Batley forward Alex Rowe and ex-London Skolars half-back Jy-mel Coleman.
Hunslet are the first visitors to the Keepmoat Stadium and former Dons boss Gary Thornton will no doubt be looking to repeat last season’s win in South Yorkshire which probably gave him more satisfaction than most due to the circumstances of his departure the previous year.
More tough games follow against Cumbrian rivals Workington and Whitehaven by which time the Doncaster coaching staff should have a better idea of their prospects. As always, however, injuries can turn the form book on its head.
Whilst it would be a brave man who put any serious money on who will be crowned champions and thus automatically promoted, the top five will undoubtedly come from the Dons, Newcastle, Hunslet, Oldham and the two Cumbrian sides.
North Wales might shock one or two teams along the way, while London Skolars and Coventry could pull off an unexpected win on occasions but neither look likely to finish anywhere near the top five.
Likewise, Keighley’s financial troubles last season has resulted in them starting the season well behind most others in terms of preparation and with a 12-point deduction.