Renowned more so for bringing a whistle to his mouth that could deliver wrath rather than praise from blowing, Stuart Groom was anything but a conventional pick for one of North Launceston's most underrated roles.
The retired umpire quit that side of the game back in only 2018, but is set to turn full circle to where it all began nearly a quarter of a century later and wiser.
The 51-year-old always had more than a soft spot for the football club well before it had taken back to Invermay five of the past six State League premierships and counting.
The fondness for the Bombers blossomed when they were only the Robins in flight, but intensified coaching their under-18 side.
Only when approaching president Thane Brady to assist the club any way he could did a return to the same position enter his mind.
Former two-time premiership coach Zane Littlejohn was one of the first to pay homage to Groom's official homecoming.
That was no mean feat hearing of the new appointment from Brisbane amid the Lions assistant's own plans for a season ahead.
"I first just offered him my support with any questions he might have because that's where I first started coaching the under-18s back in 2010," Littlejohn said.
It took just two more years for Littlejohn to coach the club's TSL side and in only his third season in charge, aged just 27, North Launceston's first flag of a dynasty was born.
The spin-off has been simply astounding.
Not just in Littlejohn's burgeoning career, but the AFL aspirations of Toby Nankervis, Tarryn Thomas and Jay Lockhart.
So for the willing advocate of the mighty local club, who himself was little more than a self-confessed battler for the now defunct Hagley, the ear to Chris Fagan could not say enough for Groom's credentials in the job.
"One of the best things to come from the appointment of Stuey and this is just where Thane has been fantastic for the footy club is that he gets good people in," Littlejohn said.
"He is just phenomenal like that, Thane, and not everyone agrees with him, but he does have a lot of good people around him.
"That's to do with him - he gets them in, while Stuey really has a passion for this footy club. I told him make sure you rub as much of that off on the young guys, as I know he will, because that will help them fall in love with our footy club and therefore we'll get even more good people around the club."
Groom at the moment still may be a tad reticent about that sort of high appraisal.
But the club's track record in recent years under Brady suggests otherwise.
Watching another grand final victory over Lauderdale, the minor premiers doing it this time in Hobart just for fun, was enough to convince Groom he wanted back in the fold.
"I said do you want me to do something, whether it's go on committee, help behind the bar, umpire intra-club games, really do anything, whatever," Groom said.
"I mean I wanted to be as fit as I can, so maybe be a runner or even do a trainer's course. Never at one stage thinking he was going to offer me an under-18 coaching job."
Brady, like always, was measured and considered in the approach. It took him some three weeks to get back to Groom.
The offer of the role was really more about mentoring than anything else - and the top whistleblower has that in spades.
"Originally, I said no because I thought I was totally out of my depth. I thought the kids aren't going to listen to someone who hasn't played for close on 30 years," he said.
The understanding of tactics sort of takes second place for Groom for a reason.
The club is so well versed that nearly all of his Bombers have been drilled the process from the bottom up since playing under-9s.
It's up to Groom to take things to another level and in charge what he says goes, but he will refer to the club's State League hierarchy including senior coach Taylor Whitford for additional advice outside the North way.
"That's where I will get a lot of my tactical nous from. I'll still have my own spin; I have my own ideas on how I think the game for us should be played," Groom said.
"They are very happy for me to do that, but they have set structures, set ways, set game plans and that's pretty unconditional."
ELSEWHERE IN SPORT
That's no issue for the intelligible Groom, who is seemingly only too delighted to be a formidable cog revolving around the North Launceston ongoing juggernaut.
But even the umpire that has seen football evolve over close to two decades now in the middle sometimes can only grin and bear it.
"I can't give too much away, but there are a couple of particular things that they ask the player group to do and it's totally against everything we did back in our playing days growing up as a kid," Groom said.
"It's totally different; it's almost exactly opposite. In fact, it's polar opposite, actually, to the way footy was played back then.
"It's so defensive minded. Every strategy is based on defence now. I mean, attack starts from defence. It's as simple as that. I even noticed in my umpiring. When I first started umpiring it was a man-on-man sort of game. Towards the back end of my career, I wasn't enjoying it anywhere near as much."
It's not the case for his beloved Bombers, but like most lives he fessed it wasn't his first love. Just as well in the name of partisanship when Groom had to rule on their games.
"That was when I wasn't originally a North Launceston supporter funnily enough - I was staunch East Launceston then," he said.
The East Launceston merger in 1986 with City South did not sit well when Youngtown was called home over York Park.
But the support of his family business and moving from East Launceston to around the corner in Invermay at the time gave impetus before convenience for the new romance.
The attraction is sure to last past this year once the coach can show his wares from the sidelines in the post-coronavirus period.
"It's just their culture - it's very strong and continues to be," Groom said.
"It drags you in and draws you around.
"It's also a very strong family club.
"My wife and I had kids pretty young and North had always made us feel welcome.
"My wife loves it over there, my kids both love North too, and now my grandkids."
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