IT won't be easy but Ringwood Hawks will set out to win back-to-back Big V state championship men's basketball titles when the season begins on Saturday night.
The Hawks will return eight of their championship-winning players, although the two omissions, forward Adrien Sturt and grand final most valuable player and import guard Skyler Bowlin, have resulted in many doubting whether the Hawks are good enough to win it again.
Sturt spurned the Hawks and decided to join Bulleen Boomers while Bowlin took up a lucrative deal in Denmark.
Hawks coach Ken Harrington said he was happy his side was being written off.
"Teams like Corio Bay, Bulleen and Diamond Valley have been busy recruiting in the off-season and seem to have generated the most interest in preseason," Harrington said.
"We are happy if nobody rates us, it means we can just play hard and let other teams try to handle the expectations that we had on us last year."
Captain Willie Weimer and veteran Matt Snowball are both closing in on 300 Big V games for the Hawks while big men Shaun Clarke, Luke Egan, Mark Whitehead and import Sam Belt will all return.
New import guard Bryan Dougher, shooter Michael Stellar and emerging guards Max Sutton and Chris Flack round out the side.
Just to add to the challenges, Sutton, Snowball, Egan and Dougher have all battled injuries during the preseason but all are expected to be ready to play in round 1.
Weimer said his side would fight out each and every game and still believed it had the talent to contend once again.
"It's a tough league and they will hunt us," he said. "But our championship was very hard to get and we won't give it up without a serious fight."—Roy Ward
The Big V season for all men's and women's competitions begins this Saturday night.