Northern Jets star Mitch Haddrill is excited about taking on the role of coach at what he believes is a critical time for his home club.
Haddrill takes over from Mitch Robinson who heads back to Coolamon after four seasons at the Jets and the last two as coach.
“I'm excited about next year, really. Excited and nervous at the same time I guess,” Haddrill said.
“We've just got to build on what we had last year. Hopefully we can get a few signings early on and get the excitement up and about and go from there.”
After just missing out on a grand final appearance in 2016, the Jets have fallen just short of finals since, finishing sixth in both seasons.
The 24-year-old admitted coaching hasn’t been a lifelong ambition but he decided he was ready to step up.
“Now was a good time to do it… with all the extra time you’ve got to put into it, I’m probably better off doing it now than in a few years time,” Haddrill said.
“So I put my hand up. And I think the club needs to do something pretty big and special next year to get it going again.
“We’ve been unlucky the last couple of years not to play finals. Robbo’s done a good job and injuries haven’t helped us. I know it’s not much of an excuse but when you have a few big injuries, it sort of doesn’t help the cause when you don’t have the depth that some of the bigger clubs have.
“Some nights we weren’t getting a whole lot of people to training so that can make it hard to make those decisions. Hopefully next year it can be a bit different, get a few more players out there and a bit more depth and hopefully have a better run with injuries.”
Haddrill won the Clear Medal last year despite a knee injury in the first round. This year, he played only nine games after surgery on a broken finger cost him the back half of the season (and still finished equal fourth in the league medal count).
The Jets also lost gun backman Alex Rogers for the first half of this season and Robinson was forced into a non-playing role after a neck injury.
They are almost certain to lose Rogers next year which will leave a significant hole.
Haddrill said he’s yet to work through their list in full but is hopeful other key players like ruckman Matt Carroll and midfielder Jack Fisher will remain.
He said he hasn’t spoken to former co-coach Sam Fisher, now based in Canberra. That’s also where Haddrill’s brother Len is based.
“Oh, hopefully we can try and get him home. Nothing’s locked in. He’s tied up pretty heavily down there so it’s a big ask for him to try and come back here and play. If he was a bit closer it might be a bit easier a task,” Haddrill said.
Apart from depth, Haddrill said consistency is the area within their game that the Jets most need to improve if they’re to return to finals contention.