Both clubs have successfully completed the transition from the amateur ranks during the off-season and Hemel coach Troy Perkins is confident his players will mark their competitive debut with a maiden victory.
“The carrot of being selected for the club’s first ever professional fixture in the Northern Rail Cup is dangling there in front of all the players and it has got everyone very excited,” said Perkins.
“We’ve been training three nights a week since November in preparation for this weekend. The commitment that has required from the players has been massive but the lads have responded well and they’re all hungry to play.
“We’re under no illusion that this is a step up from what a lot of our players are used to in the amateur ranks, but if we can perform well then we stand every chance of winning our games and progressing in the competition.”
Having tasted success in the 2012 National Conference League 3 Grand Final, Hemel will go into Sunday’s game confident of getting their season off to a winning start, but Perkins has his sights set on ensuring the Stags compete with the competition’s established sides, as well as the newcomers.
“We have to be ambitious with our goals,” he said. “We’re aiming for a play-off place in the league and to be as competitive as we can in all our games.
“We’ve got a strong squad built up of some talented local juniors who have come through our systems, a few guys who have been at the London Broncos and a few overseas signings as well so we have a well balanced team and I’m confident that we will have a successful season.
“When I started with the club eight years ago they told me that they wanted to take that next step to the semi-professional ranks – now that day has finally arrived and we’re all looking forward to it and there is a great buzz around the club.
“It’s a big step to go from amateur to semi-professional, not just for the players but for everyone involved with the club. We’ve been working hard at getting things right both on and off the field and it’ll all be put to the test this Sunday.”