The ever-changing dynamic of ACT Gridiron has paved the way for former national team coach John Ludvigson to take charge of a new club and focus on playing football, not "ironman".
The league has had a presence in Canberra since 1993 but ACT Gridiron has struggled to tap into a growing American football fan base with the league entrenched in a battle to retain players.
The player shortage has forced the Gladiators and Ludvigson's Gungahlin Wildcats into a joint venture, the Barbarians, who will open their season against the Centurions at Griffith Oval on Saturday.
The University of Canberra Firebirds will defend their title against the Barbarians, the Centurions, and the Central Spears, who have rejoined the league after a one-year hiatus, while the Tuggeranong Tornadoes have fallen by the wayside a year after featuring in the Capital Bowl.
ACT Gridiron will not host its own women's competition this season, with the Diamonds (Centurions affiliate) and Central Spears joining the Gridiron NSW women's league to strengthen the female game.
Former Gladiators coach Dom Radman's decision to reach out to Ludvigson about the prospect of joining forces for one season was made in the hope it can raise the standard of the men's league.
"We thought about it, talked about the pros and cons, and basically it was a no-brainer really," Ludvigson said.
"The teams work well together, the play about the same style, and we both did it to try to promote the game and to build the league.
"Both had numbers to play but we had minimal numbers, and we just want to grow the clubs and grow the sport more as opposed to going in there and playing ironman this year.
"We decided to get together and have the two teams come out as a strong front. There’ll be less injuries that way, and build the teams up again for next year.
"We had 22 players and the Gladiators had 16 or 18. We’ve played with that many before but we thought it would be a good idea to build the teams and get a little bit more competition in the sport, try to have less injuries from playing ironman, and then next year go back to our respective teams."
The four-team league will be played over 10 rounds, with the second and third-placed teams playing a semi-final while the highest-ranked team advances straight to the Capital Bowl.
Ludvigson hopes a revised competition can lay the platform for a regeneration in interest, which he believes has tailed off in Canberra despite the rise of the likes of Adam Gotsis, Jordan Mailata, and forays of former NFL players Jesse Williams and Jarryd Hayne.
"That’s what we’re all trying to do, look at how we can promote the interest and promote the sport in Canberra," Ludvigson said.
"One way is to have some strong participation in the games themselves... There are a lot of scholarships being offered by the states now but we really need to get more people playing.
"There’s a lot of great athletes throughout Australia and in Canberra alone."
ACT GRIDIRON ROUND ONE
Saturday: Centurions v Barbarians at Griffith Oval, 10.30am. University of Canberra Firebirds v Central Spears at Griffith Oval, 1.15pm.