West Wyalong junior Sam Basham will be the club’s first grade coach for the 2017 Group 20 season.
The Mallee Man has big shoes to fill after Mark Wood and Chris Mayberry guided the side to a grand final berth this year.
The pair stepped down from the co-coaching role due to work commitments but Wood thinks Basham is the perfect man to take the reins.
“We both [Wood and Mayberry] work away a lot for starters but it won’t hurt to have someone like Basham in there,” Wood said.
“He’s one of our best players.
“He’s won best and fairest awards and I reckon the boys will respond well to him.”
Injury woes hurt West Wyalong hard in 2016.
A string of first graders missed the start of the year which saw the team start with four losses in a row.
However, West Wyalong’s spark returned as players came back into the side.
Momentum slowly built and culminated in the Mallee Men winning nine of their last 11 games to romp into the grand final where they fell to Tullibigeal-Lakes United in a rain-affected decider.
West Wyalong has already started pre-season – with around 15 players turning up to the sessions – in the hope injury won’t hit the side as hard next season.
The early start – along with a focus on youth – are Basham’s focus heading into 2017.
“I’ll be trying to get a lot of the younger blokes back playing footy to create a bit more depth – [I want to] make it a bit more enjoyable,” Basham said.
“If we get more numbers, it makes it easier for the year.
“The year just gone, it was pretty hard. We had a lot of injuries and stuff like that hampered our season.
“Toward the end, we were a lot fitter and had more depth and that’s pretty much what I want to aim for [next year].”
Wood and Mayberry are expected to play on and Jeremy Wood is also set to return to the side.
The representative prop last played West Wyalong in 2014.
Wood could be a straight swap into the side for Willy Jones, who according to Basham, is unlikely to play in 2017.
A broken eye socket sustained midway through the 2016 season continues to be a problem for the West Wyalong stalwart.