Premiers lose coach but retain most of squad

DEFENDING Group 11 premiers Dubbo Macquarie may have lost their coach from 2012 but they are well on the way to retaining the bulk of the squad that beat CYMS in this year's grand final.

Jade Williams' decision to move to Junee opened the door for former Manly under-20s centre John Grey to take on the role, with the Raiders signing Grey to a two-year deal.

Bob Weir Medallist Josh Merritt will be back in 2013, as will damaging back-rower Moses Manu, prop Ash Conn, lock Perry Meredith and centre Quentin Dickinson among others.

Group 11 hooker Jeremy Smith, an instrumental part of Macquarie's success in 2012, is fielding offers from several Group 9 clubs with a decision on his future expected in the coming days.

Raiders president Gavin Board, who was recently re-elected to the job at the club's AGM, said although it was disappointing to lose a player of Williams' quality it was onwards and upwards as they build for 2013.

"Jade wanted to be closer to his family and we respect that," Board said.

"He did a great job in his two years as captain-coach, he helped us to a premiership and I think we helped him as both a footballer and a coach.

"We're very lucky that John Grey wanted the challenge of coaching the side and even though it will be a big year for him with his wife being pregnant, we have full faith in him.

"At this stage we've probably re-signed about 80 per cent of our players so once we get through that process we will look at the holes and what we need to do to fill them, whether it be through our juniors and reserve graders or looking outside the club."

A number of new faces came on board at the recent AGM, including Craig and Lisa Johnston and Mark Meredith, who will take on the role of senior vice-president.

"It's a positive sign that some new faces wanted to come on board for next season," Board said.

"We're really happy with the position we are in, we will enjoy the little bit of a break we have now and then it will be all systems go for defending that premiership."

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