LEIGH Miners Rangers get the 2014 season under way with a home tie in the first round of the Tetley's Challenge Cup this Saturday.
After several years of entering the game's premier knockout competition at the second round stage it is back to basics for the Miners side this year as they will have to negotiate two hurdles if they are to earn a crack at a professional side in round three.
The Twist Lane club could scarcely have wished for a tougher test as they play host to NCL Premier Division rivals Hunslet Warriors in what is the pick of the first round games.
The Warriors were promoted to the top flight last season and with a talented squad further boosted by the arrival of NCL Player of the Year Danny Rowse from Lock Lane, and former Dudley Hill playmaker Nathan Kitson, all now under the coaching charge of ex Lock Lane boss Martin Rowse, they are hotly tipped to challenge for silverware this season.
Miners will look to hand debuts to some of their own new recruits, alongside established favourites such as Scott O'Brien, Darryl Kay, Jonny Youds and Lee Gittins.
With the new season still a month away, this will be an early opportunity to lay down a marker for the campaign to come against highly-rated opponents.
The under 18s commenced their season even earlier, featuring in a National Cup preliminary round stage game at Rylands.
Under new coach Paul Wingfield the team secured a hard-fought victory 20-14 with tries from Alex McPolin, Elliot Liku, Lewis Lingard and Adam Ashurst (two goals and a try).
Their reward is a trip across the Pennines to Shaw Cross Sharks in the first round, tie to be played next Sunday.