Al Lantry can’t remember the last time no Coalfields clubs featured in the Newcastle Rugby League first grade finals series.
And the 29-year-old doesn’t want to see it happen again, especially now he has taken over as captain-coach of the Cessnock Goannas.
“My main goal is to get us back up into the semi-finals,” Lantry said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen it without the Coalfields sides in there. And it seems to be if Kurri or Maitland or Cessnock are doing well the others react as well.”
Lantry, who was officially appointed to the role on Friday night, knows that Coalfields rivalry better than most having been a long-serving player at the club previously and featuring in five losing grand finals between 2008 and 2014.
After a few years away traveling overseas, including a season playing for English club Leigh East, Lantry arrived home last week.
He’d always intended to play again for the Goannas next season but hadn’t initially heard about 2017 coach Steve Kidd parting ways with the club earlier this month while midway through a two-year deal.
The lock contacted Kidd, who encouraged him to apply, and now he’s looking forward to a new challenge
“I actually can’t wait,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and thought maybe in another two years, but I feel ready to do it now.”
Shaun Collingwood will be Lantry’s assistant coach and reserve coach in 2018.
Cessnock interim president Darrell Wilkinson said Lantry and Collingwood had been endorsed unanimously by the board.
Wilkinson said Lantry was selected from a quality field of eight other applicants which included two former first grade coaches.
“The coaches retention committee recommended to the board a captain coach with a strong assistant was the way forward this year,” he said.
“We have reappointed our 2017 reserve grade coach Shaun Collingwood as 2018 reserve grade coach and importantly as an assistant and adviser to the first grade coach.
“Shaun’s history in rugby league is well known, and he will be Alan’s strength and support during 2018.
“Shaun is adamant that as a reserve grade coach and sssistant you should be grooming players to play at the next level and that will again be his philosophy in 2018.
Wilkinson said it was exciting to have Lantry back at the club and everyone was getting behind him and the coaching panel.
“Al came to the Goannas in 2007 playing in reserve grade and made his first grade debut in 2008,” he said “He was part of five grand finals teams in the seven years to 2014.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t win a premiership, but we are committed to going the next step.
“We have an exciting crop of under 19s coming through and this team will form a major part of the future for the Goannas.”