Club great re­turns

Drovers Life Mem­ber signs on as 2019 coach

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - SPORT - By JAMIE LOWE

One of the De­niliquin Drovers’ best play­ers in the club’s his­tory will take over as coach for the 2019 South­ern In­land Rugby Union sea­son.

Four-time best and fairest win­ner Mark Thomp­son (pic­tured) will take on the top job for his first stint in the role.

The Drovers Life Mem­ber had a stel­lar ca­reer play­ing for the Drovers, tak­ing out the SIRU Di­vi­sion Two best and fairest B Cas­tle Memo­rial Tro­phy in 1994.

Thomp­son also played in the 1997 premier­ship win­ning Drovers side, claim­ing a club record four best and fairests in 1992, ‘95, ‘96 and ‘98.

The sec­ond rower takes the reins from Joe Gog­a­rty, who has coached the side for the past three sea­sons, which in­cluded the club’s 10 year drought break­ing flag in 2017.

While still be­ing heav­ily in­volved with the club since hang­ing up the boots in 2007, it was his son Zack mak­ing the code switch from Aussie rules that en­cour­aged Thomp­son to coach.

‘‘I have thought about coach­ing for a while and with my boy (Zack) play­ing I’ve de­cided now’s the right time,’’ Thomp­son said.

‘‘The squad has been in good hands over the years with War­wick (Strong) and Joe (Gog­a­rty), so I don’t want to change too much of what they’ve al­ready started.

‘‘I don’t miss a game as a spec­ta­tor and they (the play­ers) have heard me scream­ing from the side­lines for a while, so they should be used to it.’’

While it’s only his first year coach­ing the side, Thomp­son’s goal for 2019 is an­other premier­ship for the Drovers.

‘‘We have a good core and good group of play­ers, so if we can ex­pand on that we can go at least one bet­ter than last year,’’ he said.

‘‘The side made the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal last year so we’ve got the tal­ent that can get the job done.

‘‘What I want to see though is more peo­ple down at the club, whether it be cur­rent play­ers, new play­ers, old play­ers or sup­port­ers.

‘‘We also want to have a fo­cus on fam­i­lies and ju­niors at the Drovers so we can try and run a bit of a ju­nior pro­gram.’’

Thomp­son also has one thing to tick off his bucket list in the 2019 sea­son, with the non-play­ing coach say­ing he will pull the boots back on for one more match.

‘‘I’ll be look­ing to play round one so I can play a game with Zack,’’ he said.

‘‘I was sup­posed to play along­side him for the first time last year in Hay but he in­jured his an­kle be­fore the game.

‘‘Play­ing one game with ev­ery­one will also help build the re­la­tion­ship be­tween us all and show what’s ex­pected of ev­ery­one.’’

Out­go­ing coach Gog­a­rty said that his side will be in great hands with Thomp­son.

While step­ping away from the role, he said he will still stay quite in­volved with the club.

‘‘After three years I feel like I’ve done enough,’’ he said.

‘‘The play­ers need a change so I felt it was time to move on. I’ve played un­der coaches who have be­come stale and it didn’t work out well.

‘‘It feels good to be able to give the role to some­one I re­spect so much.

‘‘The aim is to spend more time with the fam­ily but I may even do a ref­eree’s course.

‘‘I also want to be around the club with a big in­ter­est in push­ing ju­nior rugby.

‘‘Now that I’m not coach­ing I can give more time to the ju­nior side of things, so hope­fully we can get a few more young ones in­ter­ested in rugby.’’

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