Dolan to take over at the Den

RUGBY LEAGUE : A familiar face has returned to the helm and is hoping to bring the Oakey Bears back into the finals picture.

Brendan Dolan has been appointed as A-grade coach for the 2020 TRL Premiership season, a return to the role he held in 2017.

The future is a lot more certain for the Bears now as opposed to when Dolan was last in charge, with the club scrambling to meet TRL criteria to compete that season.

Over more recent years Dolan has served as president of the club, but with a change in circumstances, he said the time was right to get back into a more hands-on role.

“Mark Tookey was in the role this season, and he brought a lot of professionalism and opened up the club to new ideas,” Dolan said.

“With injuries and work commitments, things just didn’t work out for us. It was also a big commitment for Mark to drive up from Brisbane each week.

“I coached the boys back in 2017 when the club was going to be suspended from the competition.

“We wanted to turn our fortunes around. We hadn’t won a game for almost two years at that point, and then we won our first two games.

“The boys were really keen for me to come back into a coaching role, and I’m excited to get back into it.”

If there’s one thing the Bears won’t be lacking in 2020, it’s fitness.

Dolan runs his own sports physiotherapy centre in Oakey and is well credentialed in strength and conditioning, something he will bring to the club as they approach the beginning of pre-season training.

“My sides are fit, I make sure of that. It’s one of my strengths,” he said.

“I’ve had previous experience coaching in Townsville and as a trainer and physio for rep sides.

“I’ve had good exposure to different systems, and we want a good structure at our club.

“One of the things I’m most passionate about, and one thing I expect from players, is to play with commitment and passion.”

An issue that has plagued the Bears in recent times is player depth.

They finished at the bottom of the ladder in all three grades, and something Dolan hopes to bolster is the numbers in the ranks to prevent against adversity that could strike.

“Something that has let us down in the past is player commitment to training, and depth is certainly a big thing for us,” he said.

“We didn’t have that last year, and at one stage we had 15 players out through injury.

“We’ve been able to keep most of our core group of A-graders this season, and they’re excited to come on board. We’ve also had a couple looking to come out to Oakey, and a bit of interest from people looking to change clubs and wear the black and white.

“We’re always looking to add to our squad. It was quite strong at the start of the year, and I’m excited to work with this group.

“We’re again chasing fringe players and good, honest reserve graders as well. That’s what clubs like Valleys do so well, is having that depth and players pushing for A-grade selection.”

While the town has had a tough run of late with the effects of drought and local workforce issues, Dolan hopes that the side can give locals something to cheer about.

“With all the drama around town about water and the (New Acland) mine, we need something positive to town,” he said.

“Oakey has a proud history, and even though there have been some lean years, with our last premiership in 1999 and only making one grand final (2011) since, we want to bring back that passion.

“When the Bears are going well, we have the biggest crowds in the competition.”