Club stalwart answers late coaching SOS to help Norths
NEW Norths A-Grade coach Michael Williamson concedes his team will be rusty for their opening game of the Rugby League Ipswich season after a first round bye.
However, Williamson was just as concerned about former Tigers mentor Gary Lawrence as his side prepares to tackle Fassifern at Harrisville on Saturday night.
Former Toowoomba Clydesdales premiership-winning coach Lawrence was appointed in the pre-season to take over from Mick Newton for the 2021 season.
However, Lawrence has stepped aside due to health issues.
Having overseen major junior development and premiership successes at Norths in recent years, Williamson accepted the club's invitation to take on this year's A-Grade side.
"I was really looking forward to being the 19's coach this year,'' Williamson said.
"The club asked me to step up due to the circumstances that I don't think anybody would ever hope for.
"The opportunity was there. I thought I'll have a crack at it and see how we go.''
It will be Williamson's first time as head coach, although he has been an assistant before at Rosewood.
"I was really disappointed for Gary. I was enjoying the pre-season.
"But he is still there, a message away from it.
"He's offered to support the team in the meantime.
"He's still going to help us out a little bit with some video reviews and that sort of stuff.''
Williamson's focus will be bringing an exciting group of club juniors into A-Grade rugby league.
They include his son Lachlan, who has come through the Ipswich State High program. Lachlan will be Norths' starting halfback.
"We lost a lot of talent. A lot of older lads have decided it was time to retire for them,'' Williamson said.
"We lost a few to Gatton. They took the opportunity to go over and play in the Toowoomba comp.''
He said it was difficult to replace Norths stalwarts like Chris Scanlan, who retired after last year's Volunteers Cup grand final.
However, Williamson was keen to continue his impressive development in past seasons.
"We've got a couple of 19's that will be in the A-Grade squad,'' he said.
They include another former Ipswich State High player Shane Tolova'A. He is a powerful performer who holds the school's bench press records.
"I'm looking forward to being a part of hopefully the development of these young blokes coming through,'' he said.
Five-eight Lewis Smith has been appointed captain, to be assisted by versatile forward Ethan Page.
"We could be a little rusty seeing we had the bye in the first round,'' the new Norths A-Grade coach said, having only taken over a few weeks ago.
However, he welcomes some healthy rivalry with the Bombers.
Williamson and Fassifern head coach Cam Wallace are good friends.
"When I came back into the Ipswich comp to play after playing Q-Cup and stuff, Cam was actually my first coach,'' Williamson said.
That was with Fassifern.
RLI Rd 2
Saturday: 6pm - Brothers v Jets at Raceview. 6pm: Fassifern v Norths at Harrisville.
Sunday (3pm): Swifts v Goodna at Purga.