Respected Turvey Park identities Jeremy Sykes and Mark Carroll will lead the Bulldogs into 2019 intent on continuing the club’s improvement.
The co-coaches will form a playing and non-playing partnership with Sykes as on-field leader and Carroll, who has taken the club’s under 17s to premiership success for the past two years, in charge on the boundary.
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a real good mix to be honest with you,” Carroll said.
“Jeremy’s the younger guy, he’s a very good player, and I’m a bit of an older head.
“We’ll just be trying to continue the good work from Mitch Sykes a couple of years ago and Truman Carroll last year. They both did a fantastic job.”
After years in the doldrums (the Bulldogs won six games in 2013-14 and were winless throughout 2015-2016) the club has returned to competitiveness, with four wins and a draw last year and five wins and a draw this year.
A Turvey junior, Sykes, 23, has been back at the Bulldogs for those two seasons and among their best in most games. Runner-up in the club’s best and fairest this year (behind Mat Bailey) he was assistant to Truman Carroll last year and honoured to continue a family tradition.
“It’s good to step up into a coaching role. I’m actually pretty excited for the challenge,” Sykes said.
“‘Curl’s just coached two 17s flags back-to-back and having the young fellas come up with him, it’s good, that makes my life a lot easier.
“We won’t get too far ahead of ourselves just yet (in terms of expectations). From two years ago to where we are now, it’s just a stepping stone every year so we’re going to just build on that. Obviously with so many young fellas getting around, we want to lead them in the right direction.”
‘Curl’ Carroll won four premierships as a player at Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong and was assistant coach to Tony Hughes for two of them, in 1991-92.
As well as coaching the young Bulldogs, Carroll has been involved with the Greater Western Sydney Giants Academy for six years.
“I’ve really enjoyed that and gives me access to all the latest training methods,” he said. “You’ve got to keep learning haven’t you, whether you’re a player or a coach.”
Carroll never took up a senior coaching role as a player but he’s more than happy to take this opportunity.
After his under 17 teams’ grand final wins of the past two years, he made it clear to his players that they had earned their wins through hard work. He added that they’d been given a base on which to build senior careers and it stood the Bulldogs in good stead.
“The place is really progressing well and there’s a lot of good younger guys there,” Carroll said at Maher Oval on Friday.
“I’ve coached them (the under 17s) the last couple of years and the place is travelling well at the moment. It’s a good committee and a good place to be around. Things are really settled around the place – the committee and our main core group of players – which is a good sign for next year.”
The Bulldogs will retain most of their playing list including senior players Bailey, Truman Carroll, Chris Cerato, Josh Ashcroft and Clint Shields.
They’ve already pulled off one recruiting coup with Farrer League rep player Luke Cuthbert coming across from East Wagga-Kooringal.
“He’s a great fit for our club, and he can play,” Carroll said.
“We’ve got a couple in the pipeline at the moment and we’re on the lookout. Hopefully we’ll have something (to announce) in the next few weeks.”
The Turvey Park appointments complete the Riverina League coaching picture for 2019.
The top three teams of this year, Collingullie-Glenfield Park, Griffith and Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong are the only clubs going unchanged. Coolamon’s Connor Neyland is also returning, with Jamie Maddox on board as co-coach.