Launceston coach search

Chris Hills is one of two Launceston Football Club assistant coaches who could step up into the senior role.

Chris Hills is one of two Launceston Football Club assistant coaches who could step up into the senior role.

THE Launceston Football Club will begin the search for a replacement senior coach for Sam Lonergan for the 2016 TSL season immediately and hopes to name a replacement within the next couple of weeks.

As the fallout from the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s 12-month ban on Essendon players continues, Launceston football operations manager Neale Atkins said the club was considering its options but would not rush into any decision.

‘‘We had a board meeting last night and the board decided that the assistant coaches that Sam has put in place will take training while we search for a coach for 2016,’’ he said.

Launceston have two assistant coaches in Chris Hills and Andrew Philpott who could step up into the senior role if the club so chooses, but Atkins said it was undecided whether a replacement for Lonergan was likely to come from within the club itself.

‘‘I couldn’t confirm or deny whether it will be from within the club or without, but we are looking at three to four options,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a possibility, but once again, we are keeping our options open because something else might crop up in the next two weeks and we just have to make sure we make the right decision for the playing group.

‘‘We hope to make a decision on that over the next two weeks.’’

Atkins said the club continued to work to clarify the parameters of what the ban means for Lonergan and any potential alternative role he might be able to take around the club.

‘Currently we are working with the AFL and AFL Tas for clarification on what he can and cannot do next year or footy season.

‘‘As it is unprecedented with what has happened in the AFL system, it is taking a bit longer than we would obviously like.’’

He said a meeting of players on Wednesday night to discuss the situation had been positive and he did not   believe the club was likely to lose any players over the loss of Lonergan as coach.

‘‘The morale is good –  they are a very galvanised playing group and they will stick together and work together and do whatever they can to make this season work for them and the club.

‘‘The severity of the penalty came as a shock to all of us and the wider football community in general, and we just have to do the best we can now in the situation we’re in.

‘‘They are a very tight knit group and will stick together.’’

Atkins said Lonergan had a lot to consider about his future.

‘‘Sam is exceptional with the way he handles himself and is obviously quite disappointed with what has happened.

‘‘He has a lot to go through with his lawyers and closest connections to work out what the next step is for him and the Essendon 34.’’

When asked if he was confident that Lonergan would stick around the club in some role for the next 12 months, Atkins said: ‘‘I can’t comment on that one.’’

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