The Illawarra Mercury Premier League will kick-off tonight when the Cringila Lions take on Wollongong Olympic at Crehan Park.

The first round of the premier league has been delayed due to many Illawarra grounds being closed due to heavy rain.

This year’s competition looks wide-open. Rule infringements in 2016 caused point deductions that affected placings at the top and bottom of the ladder, and saved the Cringila Lions from the bottom spot. Football South Coast competition manager Bobby Mazevski said the infringements were a blow to the competition.

‘We’re hoping that this year it’s been sorted by the clubs and that this year will be a true and accurate reflection on the best teams of the league,’ Mazevski said.

Wollongong Olympic were consistent last season and tight defence saw them win the Bert Bampton Cup. With the likes of 2016 top scorer Yusuke Ueda, Olympic will fight for a top five finish,

Olympic coach Rob Birkin is glad to see football underway after weeks of washed-out matches and training.

“It’s a breath of fresh air that the competition is going to be getting underway tonight, so we are very much looking forward to it,’ Birkin said.

Cringila Lions go into tonight’s match with a newlook team – three-quarters of the pack recruited over the off-season. All eyes will be on the newcomers to settle in quickly. Coach Wally Savour said the team was rebuilding after last season, and it aimed to be in a respectable position at the end of the season.

“It’s going to be a tough game, Olympic are one of the four runners to be up there at the end of the year,” Savour said.

“Tonight, one thing about the squad is that they’ll fight through everything and I think we won’t be the easy beats we were last year.”

The next game in the Premier League is set down for ANZAC Day, Tuesday, 25 April, with Wollongong United to take on Albion Park White Eagles.