The Mt Albert Lions insist losing their head coach on the eve of the new season won’t prove a distraction come their first game of the Fox Memorial Premiership on Saturday.
With Willie Swann stepping down late last month to pursue further educational opportunities, former Lions reserve team coaches Phil Gordon and Cody Walker received the late call up to lead the central Auckland heavyweights this year.
“We still go into Round 1 with no excuses, we have had a good pre-season and we have some new blood at the club,” Gordon told kiwileaguecentral.com.
“This is our second full week in charge, basically we had a meeting with the club and we went from there. For Cody and I, obviously we had aspirations for this role, it’s probably come a bit sooner than we thought, but we know the boys and there is some familiarity there.
“It was probably the least disruptive decision so close to the season.”
Gordon is vastly experienced at age-group level, having lead Kelston Boys High School to the national title in 2014, while Walker is a recently retired Mt Albert player who formed a key part of their side over the past few years.
With inspirational leader Eddie Purcell not playing in 2017, Mt Albert have a few new faces in their squad after bowing out in the semi-final last year, while Gordon confirmed he and Walker wouldn’t be looking to deviate too much from Swann’s coaching style.
“I learnt heaps off Willie, a very experienced coach at high levels, although there will be some differences because every coach does things differently,” Gordon said.
“The boys have been good, they have just tried to get on with the job and they have been professional about it, they are very supportive.
“We have got Jarrod and Jordan Tua who have come back to us, Jarrod has been playing a bit overseas in Queensland.
“Matt Sauni has come up from Canterbury, he played for the Bulls last year and is in the Warriors’ [NSW] Cup side.
“We did the maths and from the team that played last year in the semi-final, 12 of the 17 are gone for a variety of reasons.”
Mt Albert start their season with a local derby clash against the Marist Saints at Fowlds Park on Saturday, with kick-off at 2.30pm.