THERE'LL be a sense of back to the future next year at the nest, after the Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles unveiled Ian Jones and Steve Johnson as its first grade co-coaches for the 2020 Group Seven season.
During his playing days, Jones, who started playing with the Eagles in 1982 as a 10-year-old, enjoyed plenty of success in the maroon and whites.
In 1990, his under 18s team won the premiership, which saw him thrust in first grade the next season.
After a quick stint at Shellharbour, Jones returned to the Park, which signalled the start of a 'golden era' for the club.
The now 47-year-old captain/coached the team to the first grade premiership in 1998 (11-4 against Warilla-Lake South), before they defended their crown the next season - with him as skipper and former Illawarra Steelers fullback Steve Larder as coach.
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With the help of Jade Lucas, Jones, back as captain/coach, made it three straight titles for the Park in 2000 - defeating Batemans Bay in the latter two occasions.
"We had a really talented group back in those days and just got on a run," Jones said.
"Everyone really dug in for one another - it really was the start of the golden era for the Eagles."
The club again won the title in 2003 (14-10 against Gerringong), before Jones retired as a winner in 2006, when the Eagles, coached by Shane Sainsbury, downed Shellharbour 30-nil at the Nowra Showground.
"It was great to finish up my playing days with a win and alongside some of those talented Park juniors, such as Dean Gray, Wade Walsh, Sean Jenkins, Simon Pimanovs and Danny Sartori - who themselves went on to win a couple of competitions," Jones said.
After more than a decade away from the sport, Jones returned to help Jake Williams coach the Eagles under 18s side last year - a team that won the premiership undefeated.
It's was this small taste of coaching and his apparent Midas touch which saw him put his hand up to coach the first grade next in 2020.
"Steve Johnson (who helped Mark McTieran guide the reserve grade Park side to a premiership this season) and I were chatting over a couple of beers and decided we wouldn't mind throwing our hats in the ring together," Jones said.
"Then before we knew it, we'd been named as co-coaches - which was really exciting.
"Steve is a very knowledgable footy brain, who is well-liked around the club and a good motivator of players - we should bounce off each other well."
Looking ahead to next season, Jones - who's sons Blake and Ryan both play grade at the club - hopes to bring a number of qualities to the role.
"I think I bring plenty of experience to the role, in regards to what it takes to be successful in first grade," he said.
"Obviously footy is a little different now but I want to try and implement some of that old footy style and culture we had back then."
While the Park haven't played finals football for more than five years, Jones knows there's plenty of strong signs at the club - including winning the reserve grade title and reaching the under 18s grand final, before losing to Warilla-Lake South.
"There's plenty of positive sign at the club, most notably the young talent coming through the ranks," he said.
"Obviously we've had a couple of down years, which happens to every club, but I think we are starting back on our upswing.
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"There's plenty of momentum going into next year, on the back of those two grand final sides and all the solid work Gary Breakspear did over the past two seasons - especially blooding those younger players.
"All of these factors are sure to make us more successful in the long run."
With most of the Eagles main core from 2019 already signing for next year - plus an expected sprinkling of new signings - Jones is excited for what for 2020 could hold.
"The signs were there last season, with the boys defeating Jamberoo and being unlucky against Warilla and Shellharbour - but that all comes down to consistency," he said.
"That was the side's achilles heel in 2019 and something we will be working really hard on - playing tough, confident footy for 80 minutes is a must in this competition.
"Steve and I will make sure the boys are battle-hardened and don't drop their heads when things go wrong - it's up to us to go set for set with teams and let them make the errors.
"If we can improve those aspects, among others, I'm sure we can continue to build as a group towards a common goal, which is a premiership."