NARRABRI will have a new face at the helm as they chase a third straight Central North premiership, with Nick Lennon taking over the first grade reins.
Lennon replaces departing dual premiership-winning coach Hunter Harley, and steps up to the first grade role after three years in charge of second grade.
He’s had a long association with the club after first pulling on a Blue Boars jersey almost 25 years ago.
“I had my first game with the Blue Boars in 1990 as a 16-year- old,” Lennon recalled.
Bar a couple of years in Sydney, he played with them through to 2008 when he hung up the boots.
He didn’t pack them away entirely, playing the “odd game” most seasons up until this year.
“Last season was the first season I hadn’t had a game,” he said.
The former winger is excited about the challenge of coaching first grade and, while still early days, enthusiastic about how his roster is shaping up.
“We’ve got most of our players from last year,” he said.
“We’ve lost Richard Hunt, Tim O’Brien and Sam Clements.”
O’Brien has hung up the boots after coming out of retirement to help them out last season.
Hunt and Clements have both moved away for work opportunities.
“Obviously they’re three fairly key players and they will be missed but I’m fairly confident they can be covered,” Lennon said.
Being involved in second grade for the past three seasons, he’s fairly familiar with the capabilities of the players there.
“We’re fairly lucky with the numbers we’ve got,” he said.
“Last season we had 56 players play for reserve grade.
“Obviously the numbers are there.
“We never had a skinny bench.”
And while he is keen to put his stamp on things, he isn’t planning to change too much.
“I guess it’s more about maintaining and building on what Hunter did,” he said.
What he put in place obviously worked, with the Blue Boars going back to back.
“Fitness has been a big thing for us the last couple of years,” Lennon said.
“I really want to maintain that.”
Wayne Saunders will again be driving the fitness program.
Skipper and last season’s first grade and club best and fairest, Matt Schwager, will again be taking on the assistant duties and will be great to have around.
“I can bounce things off him,” Lennon said.
He is expecting to start training around the end of January.
“We’ve got a couple of trials lined up in March,” he said.
It is a bit of a juggling act, especially those early months with so many of the player base involved in the cotton and other agricultural industries.
“You’ve got to get a balance there – not starting too late and not getting guys turned off because of starting so early,” Lennon said.
Second grade skipper Tom Groth will be stepping up to take on the coaching responsibilities with second grade, with Rod Hall looking after the 16s and 18s.