The premiership party has only just stopped but the good news keeps coming for Gundagai.
After a year away, former captain-coach James Smart will return to the den for the 2016 season.
Smart was watching from the hill as the Tigers broke their 32-year premiership drought on Sunday but will be back fresh for their next charge towards the title.
After sitting out 2015 to give a persistent back problem a rest, the 25-year-old believes he’ll be back stronger next year and without the pressure of Gundagai’s premiership drought on his shoulders.
“I had this year off as I needed to give some lingering injuries a spell but I’ll definitely be playing for Gundagai,” Smart said.
“I felt at the end of last year I really needed to take a bit of time off.
“Otherwise I would not have been to play for many more years if I kept going with the way I was feeling.
“As it has worked out I’ve missed out on a very big season for the club, but in saying most of the players will be back next year.”
After a big day for the Tigers culminated with the 28-16 win over Junee, Smart expects the pressure and town’s expectation won’t be as great which will allow the team to play better football.
“I know the players were relieved and especially for first grade the monkey is off the back,” Smart said.
“It would be nice to think that now that we’ve won that grand final it relaxes everyone and I’m sure the club will continue to enjoy their footy.”
With premiership-winning coach Cameron Woo still undecided on what his role with the club will be for next season, Smart is open to whatever role the club wants him to play.
The 25-year-old led the club to grand final defeats in 2011 and 2013, but is happy for Gundagai to continue celebrating their premiership and wait until Woo declares his intentions.
“I’ve made it clear to the club that I would love to play next year,” Smart said.
“Obviously they’ve been very busy over the last six weeks so I wanted to stay away from all that sorta (coaching) stuff.
“I know Wooey will definitely be there next year as a player but if he wanted to have a bit of a break from coaching and if the club were happy for me to do it, I would be more than happy to put my hand up for the job.”
After a year in Wollongong with an NRL development officer role, Smart will take over the Wagga-based position vacated by former Temora captain-coach Michael Henderson.
“I’ve been keen to get home closer to family so with Hendo leaving his position down there, the opportunity came up and was more than happy to take it,” Smart said.
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