WAGGA Tigers have delivered a coaching surprise by parting ways with mentor Troy Maiden after he guided the club to two straight premierships.
News of Maiden's departure came from left field after he was at the helm for the Tigers' 2019 Riverina League grand final win over Griffith, before repeating the dose in this year's amended AFL Riverina Championship with a 21-point defeat of Leeton-Whitton.
Maiden confirmed he was keen to continue in the role next season, but the Tigers have signed former Coolamon premiership winner and key position player Murray Stephenson as player-coach for the next two seasons, with an option for a third.
Stephenson has spent the past seven years with SANFL club Central Districts.
"I was definitely keen to go on but they've decided they want to go with a playing coach, and as a club they get to make that choice," Maiden said.
"While I am grateful to have the opportunity to coach the club, I'm extremely disappointed not to be continuing in the role next year.
"I'm really proud of what the players have been able to achieve these last couple of years."
Maiden was an assistant coach for the Tigers' 2007 premiership, before he took them to consecutive third place finishes in his first stint as head coach in 2008 and 2009.
Tigers president Anthony Lyons said the decision was a tough one to make.
"The club's made a difficult decision, Troy's done a fantastic job over the last couple of years and his passion for the role has helped the boys go back-to-back," he said.
"He's a very good coach and his professionalism is second to none.
"It's always difficult when you have success like that to make decisions like this, but the club's preference always has been to have a player-coach.
"To be getting a player of Murray's calibre is an opportunity we couldn't pass up.
"You don't get key position players from the SANFL coming over to coach the club every day.
"Murray's played under top quality coaches in the SANFL and I'm sure he'll bring that experience to the club."
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