NTFA coaches have predicted that 2019 premiers Hillwood and Lilydale will have vastly different seasons in 2021.
None of Jake Pearce's eight premier division opponents picked Hillwood to defend their regular-season crown, while all of Colin Lockhart's contenders selected Lilydale as favourites for the 2021 flag.
Anthony Taylor's South Launceston outfit and Corry Goodluck's Bracknell side, who face each other in round one, were regular mentions among the coaches having recruited strongly throughout the off-season.
NTFA Shield finalists Deloraine and Rocherlea were thrown around, as well as strong 2019 performers Bridgenorth and Longford - with Hillwood coach Pearce backing in the latter.
"There's probably a blanket you could throw over a few of them ... but Longford, after they missed out a couple of years ago, I reckon they are the team to beat," he said.
Division one sides East Coast, St Pats and Old Launcestonians were frequently on the lips of coaches trying to eclipse Lilydale from its perch while several predicted improvement from Old Scotch, Perth and Bridport.
Going through the 2019 season undefeated, Lockhart signaled two main competitors before round one.
"I think it will be a fairly even competition but St Helens are always strong and they've kept pretty quiet this time," Lockhart said.
"There's been a lot of talk about OLs, they've been doing a lot of good work on and off the field.
"It's hard not to put other teams in there, but I'd say that they would be the two sides that would be fighting for top spot as well."
OLs coach Laine Cleaver returned the compliment to Lockhart.
"Lilydale were so driven in 2019 and I've spoken to a few guys that are involved with the football club and they've had a really good pre-season," Cleaver said.
"They are the top team, they are the ones to beat."
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