By ZAC MILBANK
New Central District coach Paul Thomas insists he’s more determined than excited as he prepares for the 2021 Statewide Super League season.
Declaring his appointment as a ”huge honour”, the four-time Bulldogs premiership captain has swiftly set up a support network to allow him to take the role on in a part-time capacity.
Speaking on SANFL Radio, the 38-year-old revealed he already has his team of assistants in place, including former Hawthorn analyst Nick Russell and Mark Watts, who will guide the Reserves.
Russell, who had been with the Hawks for more than a decade, is the grandson of Norm Russell, who has the club’s Best and Fairest Award named in his honour.
Long-time assistant Jeff Brown will remain in a football operations role while former player Sam Milne will look after player welfare having announced his retirement.
Former captain Trent Goodrem, Brownlow Medallist John Platten and premiership utility Richie Cochrane will also assist in coaching roles, with the latter having a focus on the Robert Zerella Academy.
Outside of Goodrem, Milne and 200 Club member Kyle Jenner, Thomas is yet to learn of any other player departures as he begins his first recruiting campaign.
The Magarey Medallist has a key forward and a ”dynamic” midfielder at the top of his list, as well as another solid key defender.
Star recruit Daniel Menzel (foot) and forgotten playmaker Isaya McKenzie (knee) will act as virtual additions given they missed almost the entire 2020 season with injury.
Menzel has undergone further surgery to his foot to remove a structural plate which will allow him to now begin running ahead of pre-season beginning ahead of Christmas.
Keen to foster talent from within, Thomas said he was encouraged by what Jackson Kelly – the son of former Sydney captain Paul Kelly – and Jordan O’Brien produced in the latter part of the season.