Long-serving and respected coach John Hickey will guide the Gunnedah Bulldogs first grade team in next season’s Group 4 Rugby League competition.
Bulldogs president David McCann said the decision to go with Hickey instead of remaining with Sean Hayne was a “tough one”.
“It was extremely hard not to go with a coach who got the side to a grand final but that’s the way the committee went. John did interview very well and had a very thorough vision for the club,” McCann said.
“We had two very good candidates and hopefully Sean might still be available and still have a bit to offer. John did put on a good interview and has a number of good people in mind to assist in certain areas.”
Hickey was delighted to have the first grade job but stressed he only applied for the position when he thought Hayne wasn’t applying.
“I thought he wasn’t putting in for it,” Hickey said.
“He’s done a great job with a young side to get them together and was a bit unlucky not to win. Once I put in for it, though, I gave it everything and will give it everything. The team has great potential and I can’t wait to work with all of them. There are some great young kids there and I think I can help them be even better.”
He is also determined to ensure the club has a strong reserve grade in 2019 after injuries and work commitments forced the club to withdraw their second grade side midway through the 2018 season.
Hickey will also be be able to coach players who do shift work during the day.
He is Gunnedah born and bred and took on the role as Gunnedah Swimming Club coach this year.
Hickey’s sporting resume in – and for – Gunnedah is immense.
As a junior player he played for Gunnedah, Group 4 and Northern Division and has coached in the local junior league as well as Gunnedah under 18 and reserve grade sides. He also played first and reserve grade for Gunnedah and won a West Australian first grade premiership with Cottesloe.
His coaching expertise extends to a large number of sports.
“I am basically a strength and conditioning coach,’ he said.
“I have a bronze in swimming and I am a level two athletics and triathlon coach as well as coaching NSW and Australian triathlon teams.
“I also coached the Gunnedah women’s rugby side this year, too, into a a zone grand final.
“I will be applying all the coaching principles to the Bulldogs.
“I don’t have to build a side. Sean has done that and done a terrific job.
“It gives me the opportunity to come in and add something different.