STAR fullback Ben Jeffery will coach Albury Thunder next season.
Jeffery, one of the most sought-after players in country NSW, will take over from Josh Cale who has led the Group 9 rugby league club for a record six successive seasons.
The 27-year-old said last night he was excited to be entering the coaching ranks.
“I think I’m at the right age to give it a go,” Jeffery said.
“It was only when Caley told me that he would be stepping down that I started to seriously think about it and I’m rapt the club has given me the opportunity.
“The club has helped me out a lot over the past few years and I could never play against Albury.
“I have big shoes to fill as Josh’s record speaks for itself.”
While Jeffery said his immediate focus was helping Albury into a third successive grand final, the former NRL player is confident the Thunder will keep its all-conquering list together.
Five-eighth Willie Heta has already committed for next year.
Thunder president Rick O’Connell said Jeffery had been outstanding since arriving at Greenfield Park from Griffith three seasons ago.
“He has NRL experience, rep football experience and he’s worked with some very good coaches,” O’Connell said.
“He has been across the full gamut of country football and NRL.
“Ben has shown a desire to fill the position and has had a great mentor in Josh.
“He’s been very hands-on this year and I think he will do a great job.”
Jeffery played three first grade matches for Wests Tigers in 2006 and 18 with Gold Coast Titans in 2008 before he returned to his home town Griffith and played in Waratah Tigers’ 2010 Group 20 premiership.
He enjoyed a stunning debut season with Albury, becoming the first Group 9 player to score 300 points in a season and capping it off with a sensational performance in the grand final win over Southcity.
Cale, who hopes to stay involved with Thunder in some capacity next season, said Jeffery ticked all the boxes.
“He’s the right man for the job,” Cale said.
“He’s tough, smart, scores points and kicks goals and has been through the NRL and knows game plans.
“I’m sure the boys will get around him.”