Change is coming for the Dubbo Rhinos.
In fact, it’s already begun.
The club has just announced its coaching staff for the 2019 season and in an incredible coup has secured the services of former Tongan Test prop and Central West Blue Bulls mentor Heamani Lavaka as coaching coordinator.
Simply, the man that guided Forbes to the 2017 Blowes Clothing Cup hopes to work with the coaching staff at Rhinos to “turn the club around” after a number of tumultuous years.
Next year will also mark the return of Mark Reijnen, who will take the reins of the first grade side, while one of the club’s long-serving players in Brett Austin will guide Rhinos in second grade.
Darryl Thompson, in colts, rounds out the appointments, with the women’s team coach expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Lavaka said lasting change would not come overnight.
“They need to demand respect from the opposition … it’s not an easy thing to do but everything has to start from how they recruit and set their goals high and work hard,” he said, having applied a similar philosophy at Grinsted Oval in recent years.
“The structure will have to change … the old way is not working. It’s a big bonus to have Mark over there as a local and he knows the [Dubbo Kangaroos’] structure … he can bring a little bit of their culture too.
“You’ve just got to coach them properly and make them feel like they own the club. I talked to [Rhinos president Ian Burns] and said don’t just try and do everything at once. It’s one step at a time.”
“His credentials are second-to-none and he’s a really, really nice bloke,” Burns said, lauding his club’s new mentor.
“The coaching and quality of rugby should really be a feature of next year.
“The general vibe is very, very exciting and people are really looking forward to next year. It’s the most exciting start to a year that we’ve had for a long, long time.”
The club’s pre-season training will get underway on January 8, with the women to join the men for a full four-month lead-up.
Reijnen, who Burns described as “one of the best back-rowers going around”, was excited to return to the club he left in 2008.
He is also excited to return to rugby union after taking some time out to pursue his other love, track cycling, and spend time with his young family.
But he said the time was right for him to come out of retirement and “get back involved with a club I think is going in the right direction”.
A women’s coach is yet to be announced, but Burns was hopeful their candidate would “give us a nod in the next couple of weeks”.
“Some of the older people might remember a she that coached the girls before, so that’s a bit of a hint maybe,” Burns said.
“The women, like the men, will be doing a full preseason, starting in January, so we hope to have a fitter, better-skilled women’s outfit than we did last year and I think with a full four-month pre-season under their belt, they’ll be a different side.”
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