The Maitland Saints enter the 2023 season with three of their exciting young crop of players from last season's under-17 premiership in the Sydney Swans under-18s. Zack Stewart, the son of co-coach Ben Stewart, Hamish Roy and Josh Bowen have all earned places in the the Swans Academy's under-18 team and will be available to play with the Saints at various stages during the season. Several members of the under-17 premiership team will also graduate full time into the club's senior ranks after playing important bit parts in the Saints' Black Diamond Cup and Black Diamond Shield teams in the AFL Hunter Central Coast competition. The Saints are training at Lochinvar Sports Complex while Max McMahon Oval undergoes drainage work and are on the lookout for recruits for both their men's and women's teams. Three of the stand outs on the track from the graduating under-17s have been Xavier Russell, Jarrod Inglis and Riley Hawes. Maitland Saints co-coach Dustin Spriggs said Russell has been leading most of the time trials, but will be heading to the Riverina this season where he will be playing for power club Lavington while he attends university. Spriggs said Inglis, had narrowly missed out on Swans Academy selection, and was motivated to have a big season for the Saints after regular games with the first team last year. Riley Hawes has worked hard in the offseason and gained 8kg to allow him to compete against bigger bodied players in the Black Diamond Cup competition. Not that he struggled to make his mark with 15 goals from a handful of games last season. "He will be a handful for oppositions as an 18-year-old this year," said Sprigg who is excited as the Saints continue to develop young talent. "We are looking forward to to seeing these young players coming through. "It's not going to happen overnight, there is still a lot of work to do and we will probably need to add a bit more depth to our squad but you can definitely see it coming together." The first of Saints juniors to come through the ranks such as Pat McMahon, Mitchell Greaves and young skipper Riley Newstead are enteing their mid-20s and the prime of their career. Spriggs said the captain Newstead, already a Hunter representative team regular, looks like he is ready to take his game to a new level, "He has always been a leader by example and this year I feel he has developed his talk," he said. "Pat McMahon is looking as good as ever. "Mitchell Greaves, we've missed him pretty much the last two seasons with a chronic ankle injury, is back at training and gaining fitness every day. "Mitchell will be equally damaging in the midfield or halfback. He is virtually a new recruit for us." Spriggs is particularly excited about Sam Jordan's prospects in 2023. "Sam Jordan has returned from the off-season probably the fittest he has ever been," Spriggs said. "He is a very important player for us. He has had three runners-up in our best and fairest in a row. He is only 21 and is someone we expect to develop into a real top tier player in the competition. "He has natural speed and can play midfield or across the halfback. I think he is really motivated to lock down a spot in the midfield. "Lucas Doherty is another young player who is really impressing at training." The Black Diamond Cup is expected to expand to nine teams from seven over the past few seasons, with Nelson Bay and The Entrance Bateau Bay. The Saints have a preseason camp at Hawkes Nest on February 4 and a couple of intraclub games during February with plans for a couple of trial games. The women's team will once again be coached by Sacha Gratton who is also looking for new players to come into the team. Saints training until the end of February is at Lochinvar Sports Complex on Tuesday and Thursday from 6-7.30pm. No experience is required for prospective players.