New South Wales Blues batsman and Parramatta captain Nick Bertus believes it is important that his club makes a good start to its premiership defence this Saturday in the first round of McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket.

Parramatta will play Eastern Suburbs on Saturday, and Bertus said his side are well placed to build on what was achieved last season, when it broke a 53-year premiership drought against Sydney University in the Grand Final.

“We’re pretty much going to be the same outfit as we were for most of last year which I think is really good, it probably shows how good our culture is at our club at the moment,” Bertus said.

“Easts have obviously been a really strong team over the last few years and with a few new players this year, it’s going to be a tough first up match-up.”

Those new recruits include promising young batsman Henry Hunt from Northern District.

Bertus said the return of Steve Smith, David Warner, former Blues batsman Peter Forrest, among others, to Premier Cricket will only strengthen the competition this season.

“It’s definitely going to make the competition even stronger than it was last year and with 11 or 12 teams last year vying for a finals spot (in the top six) just shows how strong Sydney Grade cricket is.”

WATCH: Nick Bertus previews the McDonald's NSW Premier Cricket season

Sutherland welcome back Smith for their first round match against Mosman at Glenn McGrath Oval, while Warner returns to First Grade cricket for Randwick Petersham at home against St George.

Forrest will return for Hawkesbury against Penrith in round one and will also captain the club during the season.

Bertus said his team is prepared to be that side all other clubs will want to beat this season.

“I think it’s going to be a battle and there’s going to a bit of target on us all year as defending premiers, but I think it’s exciting and we know if we play good cricket like we did last year, we’ll be in the mix.”

The Parramatta skipper said he expects the students to again be at the top of the table come the business end of the season.

“I think Sydney Uni they’re always going to be up there, they have been for the last five or six years.”

Parramatta turned the tables on Sydney University in the Belvidere Cup decider last season, after the students defeated the Two Blues in the First Grade Limited-Overs Final at Old Kings Oval in March.

Bertus also thinks there might a surprise improver this season.

“I think Mosman have a really good squad this year, who have struggled for a couple of seasons,” he said.

“(They’ve recruited) some really good players throughout the off season.”

See here for the complete draw of the upcoming McDonald’s Premier Cricket season: https://bit.ly/2efy2zB