WAGGA Tigers coach Murray Stephenson is ready to take the lessons learned into his second year in charge as the club looks to build on a strong finish to 2021.
The Tigers took plenty of belief out of a strong back end to the season, highlighted by wins over top four sides Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong and Coolamon, to finish third on the ladder before finals were cancelled.
After a long tenure at SANFL club Central District, Stephenson initially signed with the Tigers for this year with an option for 2022.
But club hierarchy saw enough in his leadership to extend the deal until the end of the 2024 season.
Stephenson said he will naturally enter season two more prepared for the demands of the job.
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"The only thing that is different is I know what I'm in for a bit more," he said.
"I knew coaching would be a big job and it is, but there's little things that happen along the way you don't think about.
"Things like player management, different personalities and working out how best to get guys going, and what they need to hear to get the best out of themselves."
Stephenson seemed to work that out along the way after the young Tigers found the confidence they needed after an up-and-down first half of the campaign.
The club's priority has been to re-sign most of the young talent who burst into seniors this year.
"Our priority from a retention point of view is our young guys, because we see that as where the majority of our improvement will come from," he said.
"Then the core guys like Brady Morton and Jock Cornell we'll look to wrap up, then see what we need from the outside.
"I was always pretty confident in the group, but a lot of our results probably hinged on the way the young guys played week to week."
Stephenson said they are keen to recruit a tall forward-ruckman to provide support for Tom Osmotherly, who has also battled shoulder issues in recent seasons.
"It's no secret we need another tall forward-ruckman who can give Osmo a bit of a chop out," he said.
"Every club will be chasing them, talls don't grow on trees around here."
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