Roger Hardwicke is confident Launceston City are on the verge of a resurgence despite standing down as head coach of last season's NPL Tasmania wooden spooners.
Three weeks out from the start of the season, the Prospect club announced Hardwicke's resignation citing work commitments.
Club life member Lino Sciulli returns to the statewide role as an interim coach assisted by Robert Murray and Darren Cook while City seek expressions of interest in the position.
In a post on Facebook, the club said: "We wish to acknowledge the hard work, dedication and commitment by Roger over the past 18 months. Whilst there is no doubt he has left a big hole to fill we wish him all the best for the future."
Hardwicke, a 53-year-old IT manager with the Tasmanian Government's Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, returned the compliment.
"I am disappointed to be leaving because when I signed on it was always going to be a two to three year process," he said.
"But I wish the club all the best. They have great people behind the scenes that do a mountain of work to get the club out there.
"I don't think they will be too far away in the next couple of years."
The English-born father-of-three was welcomed to the club in September 2019 following a successful record in Queensland NPL. He played in multiple premierships before gaining a decade of coaching experience on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane.
Reflecting on his time at the club, Hardwicke said there was plenty of cause for optimism, not least in the weekend's 3-2 defeat of Clarence in the Summer Cup.
"There were signs that we were starting to turn the corner and we had a great performance against Zebras.
"COVID really threw a spanner in the works last year. We were one week away from the season starting, were in form and ready to fire, then we did not do anything for three months. We lost a key import and never quite got back to where we were and momentum is such a hard thing to get.
"We started off well with the cup win but could not push that through to the league and were all disappointed how the season went. The performances were there but not the results and we were hoping that would improve this season, the lads could carry on with that and start getting the results their hard work deserves."
The departure of Sam Ridgard and Rob Gerrard has freed up fellow English import Dan Smith to step up from the Northern Championship to the NPL squad and Hardwicke said City have the basis of a good squad.
Long-serving stalwarts Noah Mies and Lindsay Millington have gone but the return of Shane Egan, Will Rodman and Will Compagne combined with the continued progression of regulars Jarrod Linger, Lachie Clark and Peter Savill Medallist Matty Oh and improvement of young players James Hawes, Stefan Tantari and Will Fleming bodes well.
"The key thing is to keep the good young players they've got because they need time to adjust to the pace and intensity required to be NPL players," Hardwicke said.
"The quality is there, it's just experience of NPL level that is needed and we had brought in a couple of older players this year and hopefully that will help. The talent is there, it's just about putting it all together.
"It might not be this year, but in the next two or three years, that should start to show on the pitch."