Coolangatta have elected to run with outstanding under-age coach Neil McKay for the new Pineapple Hotel Cup season.
McKay, who guided the Gold Coast Stingrays to a premiership in the first year of the Under 18 competition in 1996, takes over from Grant McKenzie at Len Peak Oval – and he has promised to introduce a new culture at the AFLQ Premier Division’s southernmost club.
If success at junior level means anything, then the Blues could re-emerge as a competition power after several years in the wilderness.
A born and bred Queenslander, McKay started coaching at 24 after representing Queensland at 15 and 16 years levels.
He is the son of former Coorparoo player Bob McKay.
McKay Jnr’s biggest task will be to strike a working relationship with older players, given his role as chief of Palm Beach-Currumbin High’s hugely successful scholarship program.
The PBC High program started 20 years ago with McKay the sole coach in charge of 20 boys.
Now the program has four teachers and upwards of 90 students enrolled.
Asked what lies ahead at Coolangatta, McKay said: “It will be a change because I’m dealing with more adults.
“Hopefully they’ll all be trying to improve.
“I want to install a thoroughly professional program at Coolangatta, create a new culture.”
McKay is not going into the Blues cold because he coached the club’s under-18s last season.
On the player front, Coolangatta have had a major loss with ruckman Jason Smith set to miss the entire season after a knee reconstruction.
And promising Mark McGill is trying his luck with Labrador.
The signing of McKay by Coolangatta is the only change of coach among the four Gold Coast clubs in the Pineapple Hotel Cup.
Zane Doubleday is still with Burleigh, as is Rob Martin at Surfers Paradise.
And Craig O’Brien has gone back on his vow to retire from the job at Palm Beach-Currumbin, citing the installation of a new committee as behind his change of mind.
The Lions, who slipped to fifth last year after winning premierships in 2007 and 2009, have lost champion rover Mikal Bloom, who has headed back to Victoria.
But indications are that key-position utility Ben Walters will join many former Broadbeach players at Salk Oval.
And O’Brien said speed machine Arnold Knight is also likely to return to the Lions’ pride.