It has taken until late November, but Learmonth finally has its man.
The Lakies were the last of the senior teams that battled it out in the Central Highlands Football League during 2017 to appoint a coach, settling on Nick Willox to take on the role.
It remains unclear whether or not Smythesdale will field a senior side next year.
Willox has coaching experience with Wickliffe-Lake Bolac in the Mininera and District competition and landed the premiership during the first of two seasons at the helm in 2013.
The athletic forward has spent time at Learmonth in the past and last played for the Lakies during their 2009 campaign, which resulted in a preliminary final defeat.
Willox has been with Redan for the last three seasons, kicking 30 goals in 2017.
The 28-year-old told The Courier he had been keen to resume his coaching career and was excited by the job that had presented at his old club.
“It’s something I really wanted to get in to and I thought this was a really good opportunity to build on what I learnt since I last coached,” Willox said.
Willox said returning Learmonth to finals football – for the first time since 2009 – was his initial goal.
The Lakies started last season in good form, but fell away late to eventually finish in 10th spot on the ladder.
“They are in a position where they’ve recruited nicely the last couple of years and they’re pretty hungry just to get back into finals and get the club back up there,” he said.
Willox originally played for Tyntynder in the Central Murray league before joining Learmonth for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He then went to Wickliffe-Lake Bolac before the shift to Redan.
Lakies football manager Wayne Smith said he had been trying to lure Willox back to the club for the past three years and was pleased to have finally got him to return.
Smith said he was aware Learmonth was the last club in the league to appoint a senior coach, but wanted to make sure it got the right person for the job.
He revealed former senior coach and star onballer Brenton Powell had been secured as Willox’s assistant.
Smith said last year’s senior coach Steve Biggin would remain at the club and he is expected to help out from the bench on game day.
Powell and Willox played together at Learmonth in the late 2000s.
Learmonth’s appointment of a senior coach follows that of Gordon, which announced Ron Watt as its new leader for 2018 last week.
Watt coached Geelong to the 2002 Victorian Football League premiership.
He will meet Eagles players, supporters and committee members at Gordon on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, it is anticipated the handing down of final recommendations from the AFL Goldfields senior competition review will be pushed back from the November 30 deadline.