HE'S got passion, he's got desire, he's got a special ability to bond players and get them to perform and now - after a little nudge - Dean Oxley has got a new coaching challenge.
The Central West's master mentor has been revealed as the 2023 coach of the New South Wales Country Cockatoos as he takes the next step in an already impressive career.
It's a challenge which excites Oxley and not surprisingly, he has already begun to make plans with the rest of his coaching staff about what lies ahead.
"I'm very fortunate and very privileged to have the opportunity to do this, I'm quite excited about it. In fact I've already had communication with the other coaching staff and set some goals to really put our stamp on our roles," the Bathurst-based coach said.
"I can't wait to get hold of the Cockatoos and build a squad which comes together, the tighter they are, the better they'll play.
"My whole idea is process, not outcome, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't planning to win the Australian Shield."
Winning as a coach is something that Oxley has made a habit of and it's why he was a candidate that NSW Country officials were keen to sign up.
But perhaps even more remarkable is that Oxley's record as a coach reflects what he did in his playing days.
During his school years Oxley played for the Saint Stanislaus' College first XV when in Year 11 and Year 12.
He later coached the first XV to ISA glory, as well as guiding under 16 and open age NSW Schools sides to Australian Schools Championships.
After graduating from Stannies, Oxley played in his share of grand finals as a Bathurst Bulldog.
He's gone on to be head coach of the Bathurst Bulldogs first XV.
In his maiden season at the helm in 2018 they made the grand final and the following year when he returned, Bulldogs won it.
Oxley again worked with the Bathurst first XV in 2022 and it was another premiership winning campaign.
He also has the rare honour of having won a Caldwell Cup - the prize for being NSW Country champions - as both a Central West Blue Bulls player and coach.
In fact as a coach Oxley's helped guide the Blue Bulls to back-to-back Caldwell Cup successes and this year they were only denied a third in an extra-time thriller.
"It's something that I hadn't thought about, but it is quite special. It's the custodians of the game type situation where one stage in my life I was playing and now I have the opportunity to enjoy the other side of the game," he said.
"I was fortunate enough to be a Cockatoo years ago and I was fortunate enough to be Blue Bull and to coach the Blue Bulls and have some success there, it's been really nice.
"I loved that coaching at Stannies, that was quite special to me. Playing for the first XV at Stannies and then coaching the first 15.
Given his success on a school, club and representative level, putting his name forward as a candidate to coach the Cockatoos may have seemed like a natural progression.
However, he revealed it took a quiet chat with Blue Bulls leader Mahe Fangupo for him to put his hand up.
"I had mixed feelings about not being with the Blue Bulls to be honest, that's why I never ever really contemplated it [NSW Country]," he said.
"But then one of the players who is a Cockatoo as well as a Blue Bull spoke to me about why I wasn't putting my hand up to coach given the success.
"So I thought about it and I thought 'Well I will be disappointed if I don't ever get the opportunity to do it'. So I put it in and was pleasantly surprised.
"I will certainly be assisting the Blue Bulls whenever they need assistance, but I don't want to take away the opportunity of the new head coach to do his thing and have his space.
"Leaving the Blue Bulls has been very difficult ... it's something I'm still uncomfortable with, but this opportunity became available and I'd be silly not to take it."
Those words reflect the passion Oxley has for the players he's guided in his role as Central West coach.
He feels the same way about all his sides, and is delighted that his new role won't stop him from working with the Bulldogs.
"It won't affect Bulldogs at all, it's a program outside of the club structures which is a great thing," Oxley said.
"Friendships for life have been forged through that experience with the Blue Bulls, so I'm looking forward to trying to achieve the same connections through the Cockatoos.
"What I love about the coaching is the connections I have with the younger people and the people who are performing. If I can be part of their success and assist them in some small way or large way.
"Just being around the game, I really enjoy the game, it's part of who I am. I'm a competitive person, but I love watching people develop."
As well as having a special bond with all the playing groups he has worked with, Oxley credits their efforts as part of the reason he's been appointed to the Cockatoos job.
"Without their application and performance I wouldn't have had the runs on the board to be able to put in a strong application," he said.
"Through the Bulldogs results, the three grand finals and the two victories and then the Country Championships with the two victories and the extra-time loss this year, which I missed with COVID.
"That record was a critical factor and so I get to benefit from their good work as well as my own."
While Oxley is now looking forward to what season 2023 brings and working with the Cockatoos staff, which includes Bathurst's Matt Waterford, his passion for coaching is being further fuelled.
"I do love the coaching and it's not that Wayne Bennett is an inspiration, but it sort of gives you a bit more clarity around you're still offering something and there is no age barrier," he said.
"I was thinking it would be better to give some younger coaches opportunities and stepped away from Bulldogs for a time, but I feel like I've still got something to offer, and while I feel that way I will continue to coach.
"I'm actually enjoying coaching more now than I have in a long time. It's not due to the results, it's due to the way I approach coaching without the same pressure there used to be.
"I stopped playing football when I didn't have the desire anymore and I'll stop coaching when I don't have the desire, but at the moment it's stronger than ever."
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