THE Riverina Rhinos are all set for their first ever stampede in Griffith this weekend.
The region's finest young footballers will be on display as the new Football NSW Regional League club kicks off its inaugural campaign at EW Moore Oval.
The Rhinos' four age groups are awash with Griffith juniors who will face their biggest tests yet against the Western NSW Mariners on Saturday and the Sydney-based Northern Tigers on Sunday.
It looms as a landmark weekend for local football with the Regional League considered the best developmental pathway ever offered to local players.
"This is going to open a lot of doors," Riverina Rhinos technical director Blaise Fagan said.
"The boys are now playing in a metropolitan competition against teams from Sydney and there will be more people that will attend their games.
"You never know who's on the hill and having a look.
"There will be state coaches coming to watch. Sydney is full of people who work for clubs, overseas and interstate.
"The Griffith kids need that exposure. There's no point playing Wagga and Albury when you can play at a higher level and maybe somebody will notice you."
The Regional League was launched last year to fill a gap in the elite player pathway between grassroots football and the NSW state league competitions, and enforces a mandated style of possession football across all the clubs.
Fagan and his four coaches - Sharif Moursi, Anthony Vecchio, Ben Duggan and Ross Morgan - have been working overtime to drill the Rhinos' new passing philosophy into the minds of their players over the summer.
Fagan described it as "the way football should be played".
But that's a process that won't happen overnight, as evidenced by the team's rough Bathurst Cup campaign last month.
"We've got good staff who keep the boys focused and performing in the right fashion and playing in the right way," Fagan said.
"We now value proper football rather than someone who can run fast.
"It's more important to have a player that's technically sound than big, strong and quick."
The Mariners and Tigers are expected to bring strong squads to Griffith and Fagan has challenged the Rhinos to take a few cues from their opponents this weekend.
"Our kids need to step up - particularly in a tactical and technical sense," he said.
"These teams have had academy training and development schools in place for a long time and will have a good depth of knowledge and experience.
"We're only just starting out.
"It's the first year of our own Skills Acquisition Program and we've still got a long way to go."
Saturday, April 12 vs Western NSW Mariners
Under 12 boys: 10.30am
Under 13 boys: 11.40am
Under 14 boys: 1.05pm
Under 15 boys: 2.25pm
Sunday, April 13 vs Northern Tigers
Under 12 boys: 8.30am
Under 13 boys: 9.40am
Under 14 boys: 11.05am
Under 15 boys: 12.25pm
All games at EW Moore Oval, Griffith