Wagga Tigers have locked in captain-coach Murray Stephenson for a further three years.
In one of the longest contract extension's in AFL Riverina history, Stephenson has re-signed at Tigers until the end of the 2024 season.
Stephenson arrived at Robertson Oval this season after seven years at Central District in the South Australian National League (SANFL) and has quickly impressed those at Tigers with his leadership.
While Tigers are yet to really get going this season and sit in fourth spot, club president Paul Lucas insisted Stephenson was too good of a leader to let slip.
"Murray's a great leader," Lucas said.
"The boys all love him and he's fitted into our club like he's been here since a junior. We would be nuts not to get him to re-commit so it's a no-brainer for us."
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Stephenson conceded that three extra seasons is a big commitment but admitted he had no hesitation in locking himself in long term at Tigers.
"It is. I suppose I'm really lucky that they've offered me the extended time as a playing coach," Stephenson said.
"It's a great privilege no doubt. It just means I get to spend more time with the group we've got. We are a young group and we want to develop these young guys for the next three to four years and I want to be part of that."
A Coolamon junior and premiership player, Stephenson said he has 'fallen in love' with Tigers.
"I've really fallen in love with the place. It's hard not to," he said.
"We've got some really good characters in the playing group and also the way the place is run. Paul Lucas does a fantastic job, you've got good help from guys like Jason Morton, Paul Kelly, Steven Priest and Ray Colvin, these sort of guys, it made the decision pretty easy."
As for the remainder of his first season, Stephenson believes Tigers can still secure a top three finish and launch into finals from there.
"It's a live possibility so why wouldn't we try to aim for that?" he said.
"We are a young group but I think that we are more than capable and (Sunday's win over Coolamon) is probably a bit of confirmation that we are more than capable so we should take a lot out of that."
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