SIMON O’Keefe will chase a third consecutive Warrnambool and District league premiership at the helm of Panmure.
The Bulldogs yesterday revealed they had reappointed O’Keefe for season 2014.
The decision ends weeks of speculation linking the classy onballer to Panmure, his home club Koroit, Terang Mortlake and South Warrnambool.
O’Keefe said he toyed with staying with Panmure or heading back to Koroit, where he played in three premierships and won two Maskell Medals.
“I was thinking about going back to the Hampden league a little bit and Koroit would’ve been the first choice,” he said.
“I’m happy enough where I am.
‘‘At the end of the day it’s country footy and the main thing is enjoying yourself.
“The last two years have been very enjoyable for me.”
O’Keefe said the chance to coach also factored in his decision.
A return to the Saints would’ve meant playing under respected mentor Adam Dowie. “If you play under a different coach you learn a bit but I’ve been coach for two years and have really enjoyed it,” he said.
“There’s the opportunity to coach the interleague side again, which I really enjoyed too.
“Those sort of things add up. The main thing is I think we can get more out of the playing group.”
Tom Mahony, Michael Payne, Dylan Payne, Chris Bellman and Tommy Jones headline the emerging prospects at the Princes Highway club.
Chris Bant is the only confirmed departure, to Terang Mortlake, although there are question marks over half-back Jordan Brown and full-forward Gary Robinson.
Robinson, a century goalkicker in 2012, is crucial to retain given the loss of Bant.
“He’s someone who can kick 100 goals. There aren’t too many of them around,” O’Keefe said.
The Bulldogs are unlikely to recruit heavily this off-season but would welcome “mates of mates who want to come to the club”.
O’Keefe said he also looked forward to catching up with the 2013 playing group, still riding high after their dismantling of Dennington in the grand final.
“This time of year phones are going wild,” O’Keefe said yesterday. That’s country footy.
“There are so many sides in the Hampden league, District league and the other leagues out there.
“Every player is being rung three or four times.”
Panmure president Jack Ryan said the reappointment gave the Bulldogs “stability” heading into season 2014.
“I spoke to him mid-season and a month before the end of the season,” he said.
‘‘All the time it was he was well and truly wanted at Panmure.
“He said ‘give me a couple of weeks after the grand final and I’ll make a decision’.
“To have a coach signed up, ready to go again, it definitely helps the stability of the club.”
The club expects to make an announcement on its A grade netball coach later this week.