Fareham’s new first-team captain Alex Boxall hopes they will hit the ground running after a gruelling pre-season.
The Henry Cort side begin the new Men’s Conference west season at home to Barford Tigers tomorrow (1.30pm).
Boxall, who is in his fourth season at the club, replaces last season’s captain and final-day hero, Shaun Baker, who has moved to Bath Buccaneers.
Fareham avoided relegation in a dramatic finale to last season, with Baker’s match-winning strike against ISCA consigning rivals Havant to the drop.
Boxall, however, is hoping to avoid any relegation battle in his first season wearing the armband.
‘I’ve been a senior player ever since I arrived here,’ said Boxall.
‘When Shaun (Baker) announced he was leaving, Ben Barnes (Fareham coach) asked me to step into the role because he thought I was ready for it.
‘I’ve had a lot of respect from the guys and there’s been a really good buzz in pre-season.’
The first team returned to training on July 26 – the earliest they’ve ever started pre-season and Boxall hopes that will give them the headstart they need going into tomorrow’s opener.
He said: ‘It’s been the most intense pre-season we’ve had in the last couple of years.
‘In previous years, the fitness levels in the first couple of games haven’t been there, so we’ve highlighted that as a key area to improve for this season.’
Fareham have strengthened the side with new signings Josh Godfrey, from Exeter University, and Gurmukh Bhamra, from rivals Havant.
And Boxall is hoping to get off to a winning start against newly-promoted Barford.
He said: ‘They’re new in this league and we’re looking to take three points off them.
‘We know they’re a very technically-skilled team but they have a tendency to get wound up and to implode.
‘We’re hoping that with the fitness levels and the way we’ve been training, to take maximum points.
‘We’re looking to set a real precedence in the first game and send a message to the league that we’re really looking to compete this year.’