Nigel Walsh will be back as North Otago rugby coach next season.
Walsh’s reappointment was confirmed by the union this week.
The Timaru-based coach joined North Otago as an assistant in 2016, and stepped up to the top job this year following the departure of Barry Stevens.
“I’m very keen to have another go, and I’m very happy to be given the opportunity for another season,” Walsh told the Oamaru Mail
“I couldn’t wait to get it sorted and done and dusted.
“We’ve done a lot of hard work over the past couple of years, we’ve laid a good foundation between the Development side and the Heartland side, and we’re all very enthusiastic about the future.”
North Otago, which slumped to seventh in the Heartland Championship this season, has spent three years outside the Meads Cup, and Walsh knows the union must get back to the top table sooner rather than later.
“I think we’re ready for the next step, and away we go.
“A core of our young players are coming back, which is exciting, and it’s at the point where players who were on the fringe of Heartland rugby are already taking about what they need to do next year.
“If I can get 22 local players who want to stand up and are fit and want to represent their province, I’m happy to take 22 local guys. They’ve just got to put the hard work in, and that starts in January.”
North Otago chief executive Colin Jackson was pleased to secure Walsh’s services for at least another season.
“We’re thrilled that Walshy will be carrying on at North Otago for another year,” Jackson said.
“He’s a talented coach, and he’s well liked and respected.
“The team wasn’t far away this year. If we’d had a little bit of luck on our shoulder, we could easily have been in the Meads Cup final.”
Walsh will again have Jason Forrest as his assistant coach.
Meanwhile, North Otago’s closest rival has also re-appointed its coach.
North Otago farmer Barry Matthew will guide South Canterbury, still desperately chasing its first Meads Cup, for a fourth season.