The return of Hawthorn's Jarryd Roughead and a group of banned Bombers might bring some much-needed spark to the AFL pre-season competition amid fresh questions about its relevance.
Essendon will welcome back former captain Jobe Watson and his successor Dyson Heppell for Thursday night's pre-season opener against Collingwood.
Up to seven Bombers who served doping bans last season could line up at Etihad Stadium alongside a new generation led by No.1 draft pick Andrew McGrath.
The Magpies have a comeback story of their own.
Exciting forward Jamie Elliott will play for the first time since suffering a serious back injury which had threatened to derail his career, while teammates Jackson Ramsay and Matthew Scharenberg are set to return from knee reconstructions.
However, nothing is likely to top the emotion of Roughead's AFL return when the Hawks face Geelong on Friday night in Tasmania.
The four-time premiership winner had a melanoma removed from his lip in 2015 then suffered a recurrence in 2016, a setback that had serious implications for his life, let alone playing career.
But the 29-year-old was given the all-clear in December by doctors and replaced Luke Hodge in January as the Hawks' captain.
Roughead will lead a Hawks side bolstered by gun recruit Jaeger O'Meara, who is set to make his first appearance since late-2014 after a horror stretch of injuries.
It's likely the comebacks will bring some excitement to the pre-season competition after a build-up largely overshadowed by the inaugural AFL Women's season.
Since 2014, the often-maligned pre-season tournament has consisted of practice matches with little at stake beyond preparation for the season proper.
With most clubs including high-intensity match simulations at training, Western Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy said he wouldn't mind if the AFL did away with the pre-season cup.
"I'd be okay with that," Murphy told SEN radio.
"The way clubs train now (with) the match simulations ... it is so intense.
"I think we're getting closer. I think it would have been knocked on the head a few years ago but now I think players would adapt fine."