Aker signs until 2016

JASON Akermanis says an AFL coaching job is the only thing that will take him away from North Albury after signing a contract extension at Bunton Park.

The Hoppers have locked away the 2001 Brownlow medallist as coach for next season after coming to terms this week.

Akermanis, who was out of contract, also has an option for 2016 in the new deal.

The former AFL superstar will play the final game of his glittering career against Corowa-Rutherglen next weekend before taking on the role in a non-playing capacity for the next two seasons.

“The only thing that would change that is if the AFL came knocking,” Akermanis told The Border Mail yesterday.

“There’s been interest but I still don’t know if that’s what I really want to do.

“But one thing I do know is that all the great AFL coaches have done long apprenticeships.

“The club and players have been fantastic — we’ve fixed a lot of problems — but there’s still a lot of work to do over the next couple of years.”

Akermanis took North Albury off the bottom of the ladder in his first year at the helm last season and led the club back to the finals.

Despite a summer rocked by turmoil — the Hoppers revealed they were $123,000 in debt in January — the club has remained competitive this year and is still mathematically in the hunt to play finals despite being widely tipped to claim the wooden spoon.

The Hoppers lost the majority of their star players over the pre-season as a result of the financial crisis.

Akermanis, who has only played home games this year, hasn’t given up on cracking back into the top-five before season’s end.

North Albury takes on Yarrawonga at J.C. Lowe Oval tomorrow without its coach and captain Daniel Leslie (perforated eardrum).

“Our future is in our hands, if we keep winning,” Akermanis said.

“We’ve had six games where we’ve lost by under 20 points so, either way, we know we aren’t far off the mark.

“A few things here and there and we could easily be where a side like Corowa is.”

North Albury president Mark Cronin said the Hoppers didn’t hesitate re-signing Akermanis.

“It was a very easy decision to make,” Cronin said.

“We’re very happy.

“We’ve got a young squad that continues to improve and we look forward to what the next few years hold.”