A new era at Echuca Football Club is officially under way after Michael Rolfe was appointed the inaugural coach of the Bottle Greens’ under-16 Goulburn Valley League side.
The appointment adds to an already impressive GVL resume for Rolfe who won the Pattison Medal in 1979 — the competition's under-18 best-and-fairest award.
AFL Goulburn Murray announced the new division would be introduced next season earlier this year following two rounds of applications from the GVL, stemming from the 2017 Junior Football Review.
Rolfe believes the inclusion of the under-16 competition will only hold the club in good stead moving forward.
“This is an extremely proud moment for the club and I'm excited to get started,” Rolfe, who played for Richmond and Footscray in the VFL, said.
“The new competition will help bring the juniors and seniors closer together and that is only going to help down the track when guys are moving up the ranks.
“Echuca has a lot of talented players and I'm hoping we can turn them into strong senior footballers.”
Senior coaches Andrew Walker and Simon Maddox have consistently shown a willingness to reward younger players who have performed in the junior grades.
And Rolfe said the opportunity to train with the senior group during pre-season would only enhance his playing group's ability.
“I'm really glad our guys can join in on the sessions,” he said.
“It's only going to show them what it takes to be a footballer in a tough competition.
“And the lessons they learn from the older guys will only be more helpful in our own games.”
Club president Ash Byrne said Rolfe's appointment to complete the Murray Bombers’ coaching panel for next year was a no-brainer.
“Mick has a lot of experience and we're excited by what he can bring to the table,” Byrne said.
“He's already presented a few ideas that he would like to implement and we're excited to see them come to fruition.
“The under-16s job is a really significant role for the club moving forward and we're confident our success of junior development can continue through every age group.
“I'm confident he will be an excellent coach for our club.”
Byrne also confirmed the club was looking to field a second under-16 side in another competition with a coach yet to be announced.