RETIRED premiership player Nick Couch is excited to coach Nirranda from the sidelines as the club targets back-to-back Warrnambool and District league premierships in 2023.
The first-year mentor, who has called time on an illustrious playing career which included time in the VFL, is confident the decision will help him settle into his new role.
Couch, 35, played in the Blues' premiership five months ago and is bullish about the team's chances of defending its title.
The utility is among three confirmed omissions with ruckman Scott Lenehan also stepping aside and Ash Rosolin returning to Hampden league club Cobden while hybrid forward Isaac Stephens has crossed from Camperdown and Josh Irving has returned after a stint at Warrnambool.
"I have retired - I probably went one year too long as it is and I didn't want to be that type of player that drags himself over the line to finish his career," Couch told The Standard.
"I thought it was fitting to finish on a premiership. I didn't leave any stone unturned in my football career."
Couch - a former Terang Mortlake player - believes the move will fast-track his coaching skillset with the Blues "definitely contending again".
"I think it will be better for me coaching from the bench - I think it's the way coaching needs to start going," he said.
"There's a lot more on the coach now with player retention and with the skill level and professionalism, you sort of need somebody on the bench calling those sort of shots.
"I am not going to change anything from last year game style-wise, I might tweak it a little bit but the boys are familiar with how it all runs. Keeping it enjoyable as well will be the key."
Couch said the Blues, who are mixing pre-season training sessions between Nirranda and Warrnambool's Deakin University, had their "core senior group" on track.
"The quality of training has been good," he said.
"But it's been a slow start for numbers and hopefully it will start building."
The Blues' miserly back line - it conceded a competition-best average of 34 points a game in 2022 - is again one of their biggest assets.
"Our best-and-fairest winner Mathew Lloyd and our full-back Luke Weel are both team of the year players and have hit the ground running and are looking dangerous again," Couch said.
Former coach Brayden Harkness and grand final best-on-ground winner Reagan Nutting will complement Lloyd and Weel in defence again.
Stephens is expected to bolster Nirranda's attack while Irving can slot in at half-back or on a wing.
"He (Stephens) hasn't missed a training so he's showing his worth at the minute," Couch said.
"He's that in between (size) - tall, mid - so he'll be hard to match up on."
The Warrnambool and District league season starts on Saturday, April 2.
Nirranda will kick off its campaign with a home game against grand final opponent Panmure.
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