Coach aims to build on hype

LEADER: Michael Pilcher, left, will guide Leitchville/Gunbower's 2018 HDFNL campaign following the retirement of Matt Hawken

LEADER: Michael Pilcher, left, will guide Leitchville/Gunbower's 2018 HDFNL campaign following the retirement of Matt Hawken

A FAMILIAR face will oversee Leitchville/Gunbower's campaign for consecutive Heathcote District Football Netball League premierships, with the club looking to build on the hype of this year's success.

Michael Pilcher – who was Matt Hawken's assistant coach in season 2017 – will oversee the Bombers' campaign come round one next year after Hawken announced his retirement following the Bombers' 26-point grand final win against North Bendigo.

The two-time Bendigo Football Netball League premiership player missed out on playing in the grand final after suffering from compartment syndrome after receiving a corked thigh in the club's second semi-final win against the Bulldogs.

"I would like to thank Matt for everything he has taught me during my short time with the club, and I hope to continue to progress on his efforts on developing the next generation of players," he said.

"Matt's had a successful role at Leitchville/Gunbower during the last three years. He's only lost six matches in that time, two of those being grand finals, and to finish off his career with a fairy-tale grand final win is the best-case scenario."

Club management approached the ruckman, who played 14 games in season 2017, regarding the prospect of coaching the side after Hawken announced his retirement immediately following the grand final.

Pilcher was interviewed for the role on September 16 and confirmed as the new coach two days later.

"It will be a very quick transition, but I want to build on the hype of this year's success and get the players excited with the prospect of defending the premiership," he said.

The majority of the club's 2017 senior side have confirmed their intentions to play on, with others to either retire or move on.

"Some players are looking to retire or moving on to a higher level of the game. I wish these players well and they have my full respect for what they have achieved with the club," Pilcher said.

Discussions between Pilcher, the club committee and recruitment staff will occur soon to identify what types of players the Bombers will target to fill gaps left by those leaving.

"Obviously there are salary cap and player points restrictions to factor in, but there has already been plenty of interest from those wanting to come to the club," he said.

Hawken congratulated Pilcher on the appointment, with his retirement ending 15 consecutive years as a coach at the club since overseeing the seniors in the 2003 Central Murray Football League season.

During this period, Hawken was a playing and non-playing senior coach for 10 seasons, as well as an under 17s coach for two years and under 12s manager for three years.

"Coaching never gets easier from a time and effort perspective, but the experience you gain certainly assists you in managing the many different personalities in the team," he said. 

"Starting out coaches; stick at it and back yourself, success can take time!"

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