By VINCE RUGARI
A NEW era for the Marconi Stallions begins tomorrow night at Hanwood Oval as the four-time national champions blood a fresh generation of players against Griffith's minor premiers.
Marconi - the club that bred the likes of Harry Kewell, Paul Okon and Christian Vieri - take on Hanwood FC tomorrow night in their first trial match of the year, and the NSW Premier League outfit is set to field a team largely full of unknown juniors.
The Stallions arrive in Griffith tonight to kick off a season of "rebuilding" and each and every player will have a point to prove to new coach Darren Iocca.
"Most people won't recognise these boys, they've all come through our youth system - but hopefully they'll recognise them in the future," Iocca told The Area News.
"We're going into a transition of new faces and just rebuilding, to be quite honest.
"We've got a very young side - our average age is 21.
"It's exciting but we're always results-driven, so that makes it tough.
"But we're trying to work hard with them and trying to develop them so they can go to the next level of football."
Tomorrow, the opportunity beckons for Hanwood FC youth players to join the Stallions on that journey.
It is anticipated several HFC players will switch sides and play for Marconi at some stage - just like last time - and Iocca said he will keep his eyes peeled for anyone who catches his attention.
"We're always looking out for anyone that can step up into the next level in Sydney," said Iocca.
"With our club at the moment, we're virtually going younger.
"If we can find someone decent in Griffith we'll make an offer to bring them to Sydney.
"The likes of Joey Schirripa, Michael Musitano who played in Canberra - we know you can find something out there."
Iocca was assistant coach at Marconi the last time the club visited Griffith, but took the top job after John Paul de Marigny became Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat's number two late last year.
That's not the only change at the Stallions - former captain Nahuel Arrate has retired with James Chronopolous, who was last year's NSWPL goalkeeper of the year, taking the armband.
"He'll step into that leadership position quite easily," Iocca said.
Iocca said the team couldn't wait to return to Griffith, having thoroughly enjoyed last season's friendly trip, which saw Hanwood FC stun the Stallions in a 1-1 draw.
"The boys really enjoyed coming down there last time," he said.
"We always know, the hospitality the people of Griffith give you is second to none.
"Plus we're an Italian club, so we like to come to an Italian community, and we've got a decent relationship with Hanwood now.
"I'm just hoping to get the boys together and get them prepared for the season and this should be a decent hit-out.
"It's also good for us to come down to a regional area to try and bring something out that way for football."