Newly appointed Kiama Knights first grade coach, Matt Clarke, is confident the team can go one better in the 2018 Group Seven season.
Clarke started playing rugby league when he was five-years-old in Gundagai, before eventually lacing up his boots for Wests for 17 seasons, where he won three premierships.
“I’ve always been interested in coaching – basically I wanted to see if I could do it and I had a few good coaches in my time. I thought I would give it a go in Kiama and hopefully we can go well,” he said.
“Mid-way through last year, I was approached by the club and asked if I would be interested in coaching.
“I had spent a bit of time playing down here and I really enjoyed the culture of the club, the boys really made me feel welcome.
“I loved it down here, so I wanted to be a part of it.”
I really felt for the boys when they lost the grand final.Matt Clarke
Clarke is bringing formidable experience to the Knights, having played under the guidance of a number big names in rugby league.
“I’ve worked with NRL calibre coaches such as Dragons coach Mary [Paul] McGregor and Jason Ryles,who work with Craig Bellamy at Melbourne,” he said.
“I’ve learnt a bit of them and hopefully I can transfer it into Kiama.”
Clarke plans to build on what Matt O’Brien put in place as head coach.
“He has put a great base in place here and I’ve just sort of taken over what he’s built – he’s done a great job and hopefully we can go one step further,” he said.
“I really felt for the boys when they lost the grand final.”
Clarke said the Knights training sessions were off to a good start.
“Everyone has been ripping in and we’re getting good numbers there. Everyone is keen to get the season started,” he said.
“Daniel Martin is training the house down at the moment. He’s a good young player and he will only get better.”
This season, the side has lost three players in Josh Toohey, Blake Rickard and Travis Poole.
“We’ve got basically the same crew as last year, everyone’s sticking around. We lost Josh Toohey, he’s a big loss, but we’ve got Luke Sutton back, we lost a middle and regained a quality middle there,” he said.
“We’ve signed a couple of other guys such as Tasman Gilmour from Helensburgh and Andrew Fitzner.
“Hopefully they fit in to the squad well.”