WESTERN Spirit assistant coach Chris Morrall is confident the club's blend of youth and experience will hold it in good stead, as the senior and reserve grade sides prepare to open the 2018 season.
Spirit host Logan Village on Saturday in the second round of the FFA Cup, before opening their Capital League 1 campaign against rivals Ipswich City Bulls on February 23.
Morrall, who will oversee the reserve grade side this season, said it had been something of a disruptive pre-season at the club with a number of veterans hanging up the boots and others late to return from holidays.
Despite that, he is confident the Spirit will be at full strength when they meet the Bulls in round one.
Spirit won 2-0 in the only meeting between the two sides last year, with the late-season clash called off.
"Every time we play against Bulls, we always have a chat about it,” Morrall said.
"We understand the importance of the rivalry, and obviously neither team likes to lose to the other.
"Bulls are a great side, they're very attacking (but) I'm pretty confident this year we can (beat them).”
Key to the Spirit's success this season will be the influence of the younger brigade of players which have come through the club's junior ranks.
"A lot of our experienced players have now retired, so it's about rebuilding as a club again,” Morrall said.
"Last year we were quite competitive, with seven or eight of our players aged 20 or under. I'm pretty sure this year will be the same.
"(At training) I counted we had eight under 20 on the field for the first team. We have plenty of youth in the squad which is good.”
Spirit took a patient approach to blooding their youngsters, and Morrall hopes the club starts to see the fruits of that patience on the pitch this season.
"Last year was all about nurturing those young guys through the reserves and getting them ready to play seniors,” he said.
"Reserves was a big step up for them. We noticed one or two stepped up even more - the likes of Brendan Ashcroft, he's a really good, natural defender and solid on the ball.
"Alex Varkevisser has stepped up. He's still learning a new position, he was a striker and we've put him into an attacking midfielder role.”
Matt Raub returns to coach the senior side for another season.
But there will be a change in the captaincy, with last season's skipper Mauricio Arena electing not to play in 2018.
Morrall confirmed Spirit had signed former Moggill striker Tom Webster, who took 2017 off to focus on university, and defender Chris Gayle.