Ben McKenna knows sticking his hand up to coach a team that’s won just two games in two years is probably “the hardest job in Group 10”.
But it’s a challenge the new Blayney Bears premier league mentor is prepared to tackle with locals, loyalty and a few laughs.
McKenna agreed to mentor his junior club last Saturday, inking a deal with the 2018 wooden spooners in a bid to help the club start afresh at King George Oval.
The 37-year-old said he hopes to entice back a host of the town’s best players as the club looks to improve on two wins in 2018 and a winless season the year before that.
A Group 10 premiership-winner with Orange CYMS in 2010 and 2011, McKenna is the first Blayney junior to coach the Bears since Dane Howarth and Mick Nixon shared the job in 2016.
“It’s always something I’ve wanted to do in Blayney, I’m born and raised here,” McKenna said.
The no-nonsense prop won’t play in 2019, retiring from the top grade before Blayney made a return to Group 10’s premier league competition in 2013.
He played premier league with Cowra and Orange CYMS.
“I always wanted to play first grade for Blayney but had to go elsewhere so it’ll be nice to get the chance to coach,” he added.
“I’m hoping to get all the locals back, rebuild the club. Help the town and help the club.”
I’m hoping to get all the locals back, rebuild the club. Help the town and help the club.New Bears coach Ben McKenna.
McKenna said he envisages doing the job for two years, with 2019 viewed as a rebuild season before the club looks at pressing for the finals in 2020.
“I want to win every game this year, though, but it's going to be a lot of hard work,” he added.
“You have to rely on your teammates. If you’ve got that bond with your mates everything else falls into place.
“We were lucky at CYMS, and Mick (Sullivan) added that extra touch. Mick was really smart and I learned a lot from him.
“I like a laugh and I’m not the most serious person, but I know I have to be with this job. It’s going to be a lot of hard work but I’m looking forward to it.”
McKenna will be the club’s third coach in as many years, taking over from Tim Mortimer (2018) and previously Will Ingram (2017) as the Bears’ premier league mentor.
The new mentor believes the majority of the club’s 2018 playing group will return next season but will leave further recruitment to the Bears’ power-brokers.
“I’ll talk to locals and and see what those boys are doing,” he added.