Maitland Pickers captain-coach Luke Dorn will hang up the boots, but not the clipboard, at the end of this season and he wants to make the most of what time he has left in the middle.
Dorn remains in negotiations with the club to continue as coach only in 2019 after indicating he was keen for the role, but says his playing career is coming to an end.
“I will finish up at the end of the year,” the fullback said.
“I’ve loved every minute of playing, but it feels like the right time. There’s been a lot of games over a lot of years and I need to give these old bones a spell.”
The now 36-year-old, who played juniors for the East Maitland Griffins and Morpeth Bulls, racked up a combined 316 games in the NRL and English Super League between 2002 and 2016 before returning to his home town last year.
After just playing for the Pickers in 2017, narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon, he took over the reins as captain-coach this campaign and with six regular rounds left has helped Maitland reach a share of the competition lead.
“We’re in the best possible position we can be at the moment,” Dorn said.
“On the field we have been able to string a few wins together and hopefully we can push home to make the finals. Off the field and we’re in good shape as well with the new ground and Maitland City coming on board as sponsors.
“It feels like we’ve started something and we’re heading in the right direction.”
Dorn said “I definitely want to coach again and Maitland is my priority”, but hasn’t ruled out considering a coaching career down the track.
Meanwhile, Cessnock officials will begin the process of looking for a new head coach next week when the club’s committee meets to discuss a replacement for outgoing mentor Al Lantry. Goannas secretary Cherie Douglas said Lantry “would be hard to replace” and expressed her surprise at this week’s call by the 30-year-old to step down after his maiden campaign as captain-coach.
Elsewhere, Ben Cross (Souths) and Adam Bettridge (Macquarie) are the only two coaches confirmed at their current clubs for next year.
Matt Lantry (Wests), Todd Edwards (Lakes), Ron Griffiths (Kurri) have yet to reach agreements or part ways while Craig Miller (Central) has indicated he will finish up at the end of 2018 but Butcher Boys officials are set to meet with the coach in the coming days.