THE Burnie Dockers were faced with a serious problem a few months ago when premiership coach Brent Plant announced he was stepping down after four years.
The Dockers had to find a replacement coach and had to decide whether to again appoint a non-playing coach or look for an on-field leader.
The question was answered when 2013 assistant coaches Andrew Hering and Luke Shackleton came to the board with a proposal to be joint coaches.
``It wasn't an issue for us, both guys had worked well together as assistants to Brent Plant and were confident they could fill the role as joint senior coaches,'' club president Peter Vincent said.
In his four years at the Dockers, Plant had been responsible for some astute recruiting as well as developing a bunch of junior talent within the club.
He brought the Dockers their first State League flag in 2012 and then last year was so close when beaten by South Launceston in the grand final at Aurora Stadium.
It has been a seamless transition from Plant to the joint coaches for the Dockers as they prepare for the season confident they can go one better.
``I don't believe our premiership clock has closed, I expect Burnie to be among the top five contenders again this year,'' Vincent said.
In Shackleton and Hering the Dockers have two of the most experienced footballers in Tasmania guiding the club.
Shackleton, 29, has won the past two West Park Medals for Burnie's best and fairest and carries AFL experience after being drafted by Collingwood a decade ago.
Hering, 34, started his playing career with Wynyard in 1987, transferred to Burnie and earned a reputation as a wily forward capable of winning a game off his own boot.
He has spent the past two seasons as an assistant to Plant and will provide the off-field support to Shackleton.
The Dockers go into the season with basically the same team structure as last year with the exception of Eli Templeton and Brady Grey who were taken in the AFL national draft by St Kilda and Fremantle, while former Melbourne forward Russell Robertson has announced his retirement and ruckman Tyrone Morrison has returned to Smithton.
``We've been able to recruit Chris McDonald from Penguin and Steven Flint from Latrobe, which means we haven't had a very big turnover of players,'' he said.
The Dockers are looking towards a talented young group including Caleb Hislop, James Dowling, Sam Newsom and Kyle Harman to further their State League careers.
Hislop made his senior debut last year as a 16-year-old and with him eligible for the 2014 AFL national draft his progress will be worth watching.
Dowling is the grandson of former Cooee legend Harold ``Tiger'' Dowling and is also expected to make the step up from the colts.
Newsom and Harman have been impressive in pre-season and can be expected to strengthen their hold on a senior position.
The Dockers have no shortage of experience in Kade Munday, Jason Laycock, Nick McKenna, Darren Banham and Brad Harvey.
Munday has been joint captain with Shackleton for the past few seasons and while the Dockers are yet to decide on their leadership group it would seem unlikely they would try to fix something that isn't broken.
Laycock, 29, is approaching his fourth season with the Dockers after a 58-game career with Essendon and the 201-centimetre ruckman is regarded as the best big man in Tasmania after finally throwing off the ankle, knee and shoulder injuries that plagued him in the AFL.
McKenna and Banham are two of the Dockers' most experienced defenders and with their careers closer to finishing than starting nothing would give them more satisfaction than a second State League flag.
Harvey, 25, was a chance pick-up for the Dockers last year when he moved from Victoria and quickly slotted into the team showing the 100-game experience he had gained with the Frankston Dolphins.
With his second season approaching Harvey has been impressive in his preparation.
JOINT COACHES: Andrew Hering, Luke Shackleton.
GAINS: Chris McDonald (Penguin), Steven Flint (Latrobe).
LOSSES: Brady Grey (Fremantle), Eli Templeton (St Kilda), Russell Robertson (retired), Tyrone Morrison (Smithton).
LAST SEASON: Runner-up.