After the fledgling club finished sixth in its inaugural season in 2012, Illawarra Cutters chairman Sean O'Connor is pleased with the progress made in the space of just 12 months both on and off the field.
"With the experience of last year behind us and the new squad coach Paul McGregor has assembled, I am very confident we will be even more competitive in 2013," O'Connor said.
"So the expectations are there but when you look around the general competition it's definitely strengthened throughout the competition this season.
"The competition in the last couple of years has gone to another level and next season from what we're hearing it's going to go higher again."
McGregor has lost the services of last year's captain Jeremy Smith and player of the year David Gower, but he still has the nucleus of last year's team and a host of new players adding further depth to his squad.
"We're 12 months down the track from this time last year and we've got a core group of people here that can play at this level comfortably, we didn't have that last year," McGregor said yesterday.
New Cutters recruit and former National Youth Competition front-rower Jordan Hay, who featured for the Young Dragons in the team's first finals campaign last year, was also on hand at the Steelers Club yesterday for the unveiling of the team's new playing strip.
"I loved it [playing NYC] ... obviously a big step up for me," said Hay, 20, who is studying civil engineering at University of Wollongong and is into his third year with the Dragons organisation after being recruited from the central west town of Gilgandra.
"I've been doing the preseason with the Cutters. We just finished our three trials.
"We got three wins there ... yeah, just battling it out for a spot, week to week, see if I can get a run with the Cutters and see what happens from there," he said.
The Cutters announced Illawarra firm KJ Scaffolding as above-number sponsor on the new strip for the next three seasons. Diversified Mining Services is an additional shorts sponsor for 2013, while below-the-number jersey sponsorship is still available.
The Cutters play their first competition game against defending premiers Newtown Jets at WIN Stadium at 3pm Saturday week, March 9.