Winnington Park and Northwich kick off the season on Saturday, both with new captains and high hopes.
BEN Barton, who has come through the ranks of minis, juniors and colts at Burrows Hill, is the new skipper of Winnington Park, aiming to take the club a rung or two back up the RU ladder.
Park were once in the top 60 clubs in the country but were left behind by the advent of professionalism and slipped in stature.
They are now in North Two West but believe they can do better.
Barton said: 'We had a fantastic start last season, winning eight of our first nine games. Then injuries and a few absences kicked in and we lost a couple of games. We picked up towards the end and finished fourth.
'Hopefully, if we can have a similar start, we will be up there challenging again. We are certainly aiming for promotion.'
Park have signed old boys Gary Bell (from Macclesfield) and forward Ian Davies (New Brighton).
Barton, 30, added: 'It will be exciting skippering this team. We have kept all the players we had last time and built on the squad.
'We have found our level. With professionalism, we lost a lot of players and relied on local youngsters to pick the club up again. Several of us came through together and now another generation of players is forcing its way into the team.'
Barton was Winnington's top try scorer last season and he was also the main kicker. But with the return of Bell he has a rival for the role.
'Which of us kicks and who plays stand-off and full-back is up for grabs,' he said.
Park will need to quickly adjust to the loss of the vastly experienced Mark Warr, still club coach, from the scrum-half spot. Ben's younger brother Sam is laying claim to the role.
'We need to get him settled in straight away,' said the captain.
Winnington begin at home to Fleet-wood on Saturday (3pm).
NORTHWICH'S new coach Chris Chudleigh has had an immediate impact on the Moss Farm club.
So much so that thoughts at the club, perennial strugglers since the turn of the century, have strayed to promotion.
They begin their campaign in the South Lancs and Cheshire League Division One with a trip to Vagabonds, Isle of Man, and are upbeat about their chances.
One reason for the optimism is the return to Northwich from Macclesfield of centre Steve Campbell, a prolific points scorer.
And there is also the Chudleigh effect.
Chairman Sam Naylor said: 'It's a tough start, but we are upbeat.
'The squad is in tip-top shape. In fact, I don't know if I have ever seen a Northwich squad looking in such good nick and that has to be because of the coach.
'New captain Jonathan Simpson is setting an example with his fitness, but Chris is the big difference,' said Naylor.
Northwich were given a vote of confidence by young stars Chris James and Chris Dale who have both spurned overtures from higher-status clubs, so impressed are they with Chudleigh, an Army recruitment officer and former assistant coach at Sedgeley Park.
Northwich have also signed New Zealander Jamie Miratana, a back row, who is working and living in the area for four years.
And Chudleigh has three South Africans, from Natal Sharks, due to arrive in two weeks in a contra-deal which will see Northwich players going the other way next summer.
Naylor added: 'Competition for places is keen. Whether it all turns out as something special, we will have to wait and see.'