REAPPOINTED Hampden interleague coach Nick O’Sullivan will begin preparations for next year’s country championships fixture as early as next week.
The Hampden league yesterday announced it had retained O’Sullivan at the helm of the side for the next two years.
Hampden under 18 coach Jeremy Mitchem has also signed on for 2013 and 2014.
O’Sullivan was yesterday rapt he would coach the representative side during a historic season for the Hampden league.
The competition will expand to 10 teams with the introduction of Portland and a merged Hamilton side and their inclusions could spark an interleague resurgence.
O’Sullivan said he would contact officials at the two clubs to gauge an understanding of who he could target for representative duty.
“I’m going to jump on the phone straight away next week and contact the presidents of both clubs,” he said.
“Find out who do they want to represent the league and get their feelings and thoughts on how Western Border went about their process and any other info I’ll get.
“You might get three or four players out of both clubs. That’s definitely going to put pressure on the blokes that are already there. It’s all going to be good.
“We just have to prove the Hampden league to these Western Border boys.”
Hampden is ranked seventh in the Victorian Country Football League and will take on eighth-ranked Sunraysia in 2013.
The league has slipped down the standings in recent years as population shifts draw people away from the bush. O’Sullivan, who represented Hampden 10 times during the 1990s and early 2000s, said having two extra clubs would help restore the league to the top four.
But he said the interleague campaign would also need unwavering commitment from the 10 clubs and their players.
“That’s what I’ve got to get across to the players. They can’t pick and choose when they represent the league,” he said.
“Once they play footy for that season, they should take whatever comes their way.
“I know all the top leagues do it — the Goulburn Valley, the Ovens and Murray boys — they’re pretty much forced to play, otherwise other things won’t come their way.”
Mitchem, who has TAC Cup coaching experience, said he was excited about staying on as the Hampden under 18 mentor.
He said he hoped bottom-age players, such as Otto Opperman, Nathan Monk and Isaac Martin would play again in 2013.
“There are half a dozen who played as bottom-age kids this year who, if they have the form early next year, we’ll try and get back and use their experience,” he said.
“It’s going to be a little different this year with Portland and Hamilton coming in — some extra kids we have to take into calculations.
“They’re going to make our junior level a lot stronger.”