By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
HAVING already spent three years at the helm of Sawtell hasn't diminished the support the rugby league club's committee has for the Panther's captain-coach Craig Wallace.
Wallace has been re-appointed for a fourth season in 2007 and the coach already knows what he and the rest of the club wants to get out of next season.
"The biggest challenge is to go one step further than last year, I suppose," Wallace said.
"As everyone says we finally broke the hoodoo last year and got to where we've wanted to get over the last couple of years, but it's just good to be able to have the opportunity again after a good year last year to hopefully go that one step further."
There was a lot of speculation about the Sawtell coaching position since the first grade team lost the Group 2 grand final in heartbreaking circumstances to Port Macquarie.
The name of former captain-coach Dane Cronin was bandied about in a lot of circles but when push came to shove, the committee wanted the man who they knew could get the job done.
"There wasn't any to'ing and fro'ing between us, it was just a matter of coming up with something that we were both happy with," the coach explained of the extended negotiations.
"I wanted to stay with Sawtell, I'm a pretty loyal guy and I don't like shopping around and going somewhere down the road. I'm more than happy with what they came to me with and hopefully I can repay it and get another result at the end of the year."
Coaching the same group of players for an extended period allows the opportunity for staleness to creep its way into the playing group but Wallace has already promised that a few things will be done differently during the upcoming season to ensure that this doesn't happen.
"We'll try and do something different and freshen it up a little bit, have a look at a couple of different options," he said.
"When you're a close-knit bunch, you're all mates and you talk to each other every day, so it's just enjoying each others company and just having some fun along the way.
"You try and mix it up but I think it will be good, we were all down the pub on Saturday night and had a few beers together and the boys are pretty keen to rip in again next year. We're all looking forward to it after finishing on sort of both a high and low last year."
Wallace expects training to begin in early December but he admits that he's got a busy couple of weeks ahead getting things organised for the pre-season ahead.
Trial matches need to be organised as well as a squad for the Orara sevens tournament.
The big forward also hopes to again secure the services of Greg Shuttleworth as his assistant for the year.
"We'll have pretty much the same knit but first priority will be to secure a reserve grade and under 18 coach," he said.
"I don't know the applicants yet but we'll chase that up in the next few days and try and get something sorted out by early next week."