Coach and skipper back on board for Collegians

BACK ON DECK: Collegians re-signed premiership-winning skipper Blake Phillips prior to Sunday's grand final triumph. Picture: Robert Peet

BACK ON DECK: Collegians re-signed premiership-winning skipper Blake Phillips prior to Sunday's grand final triumph. Picture: Robert Peet

THEY’RE still basking in premiership glory, but Collegians are already eyeing back to back titles in 2018 having locked down the services of coach Nathan Fien before a ball had even been kicked in Sunday’s grand final. 

The Dogs prevailed 22-14 over Dapto in the decider, securing Fien’s second premiership in three seasons coaching in the Illawarra League.

Fien also oversaw a return to the finals in his first season in charge in 2016 and Collies committeemen Bruce Prior said the club had no hesitation in re-signing him for next season – regardless of the grand final result. 

“This is my 50th year with the club, I started here in under 14s and I’ve played and coached into the position I’m in now and I can honestly say Nathan Fien is probably the best coach our club’s had,” Prior said.

“He’s one of the best operators and also one of the the most humble people I’ve seen in my time in the game.

“He’s a tremendous coach and he can go further in coaching if that’s what he wants to do but we’ve signed him for next year.”

The Dogs also claimed the 2017 club championship, two years after finishing 2015 with the wooden spoon in the top grade, with all three grades reaching the grand final.

It was enough to see lower grade coaches Peter Hooper, who steered the under 18s to the premiership, and Adam Doyle retained.

“[After 2015] we had to get the next appointment right,” Prior said.

“We made the semis last year and I said to our board that, after what we did in Nathan’s first year, we’ll improve in 2017.

“We’ve improved to the point now where we’ve won the club championship which, from a club perspective, is most important. 

“We’ve re-signed all three of our coaches and we’re looking forward to going forward.”

The club has also got a jump on keeping the premiership-winning roster together having already retained several key men, including skipper and grand final man of the match Blake Phillips.

“We’ll take a couple of days to enjoy the moment and we’ll get back into the grind of signing players,” Prior said.

“We’re not naive enough to say we’ll keep them all but we’re pretty confident most will stay. 

“We’ve signed Blakey Phillips, our captain, which is great. He’s just a champion person and he epitomises what Fieny’s all about and what the Collegians culture is about.

“[Halfback] Benny Jones has-resigned, [five-eighth] Jarrod Boyle’s re-signed and we’ve also re-signed [back-rower] Haydn Peacock and [centre] Saxon Onur.

“We didn’t want to be doing anything through grand final week so we got it done beforehand.”

As for where the 2017 title rates against the club’s nine other crowns, Prior said it ranks “right up there.”

“It was brought up through the week, we won our first title in 1967, we won again in 87, won in 97, won in 2007 and now we’ve won in 2017 so seven might be a lucky number for us,” he said.

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