Change is coming at the Dubbo Rhinos.
In fact, it’s already begun.
The club has just announced its coaching staff for the 2019 season and has secured the services of former Tongan international prop and Central West Blue Bulls mentor Heamani Lavaka as coaching coordinator.
The man that guided the Forbes Platypi to the 2017 Blowes Clothing Cup hopes to retain that role, while also working with the coaching staff at the Rhinos to “turn the club around”.
2019 will also mark the return of Mark Reijnen. The former Dubbo Kangaroos back rower will take the reins of the Rhinos’ first grade side, while one of the club’s long-serving players, Brett Austin will guide the Rhinos in second grade.
Darryl Thompson (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.
“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 … 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 of Lavaka.
“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 preseason 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!
“The women will be doing a full preseason … 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 preseason under their belt, they’ll be a different side.”
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