Craig Hayes says the lure of returning Macleod to finals action was an opportunity too good to pass up.
The Roos announced Hayes as Christian Stagliano’s successor on Monday night. Two-time premiership player Nick Lynch will serve as his assistant.
Hayes returns to the NFNL following a five-year stint as Diamond Creek coach between 2015 to 2019, which included a Division 2 grand final appearance in 2017.
He has previous coaching experience in the top-flight following a three-year stint at Eltham from 2019 and 2011, and has also held the coaching role at Banyule and served as an assistant at the Northern Bullants.
Hayes told NFNL.org.au the chance to steer Macleod back to the top of the ladder was a key reason for applying for the senior coaching job.
“To be a part of a Division 1 club who’ve got a really good list of talent and have in the past been one of the best sides in the competition and to get them back to that level, it was that more than anything else,” Hayes said.
“Having a couple years away from senior coaching has been good. It’s recharged my batteries and I feel very energised heading into 2022.
“It’ll be great to be amongst some really talented players.”
After playing off in four-consecutive grand finals between 2015 and 2018, the Roos haven’t been able to reach the same lofty heights in recent seasons.
They finished in sixth position in 2019 and were seventh on the ladder after 12 rounds this year, before the season was brought to a premature end due to the extended Covid lockdown.
Hayes said there was plenty of work that needed to be put in to return the club to the upper reaches of the ladder, but said he was confident the framework was in place to do so.
“Obviously I’m a new person coming into a club, and you’ve got a lot of people you’ve got to touch base with and get to know each other.
“We’re in the process of speaking to potential recruits, obviously it’s very early days so we’re just working our way through that.
“The actual re-signing of our current list of players is up around 90 percent, so we’re in good shape.”
Among those who have already committed for the 2022 season include 2018 Frank Rosbrook medallist Lucas Hobbs, skipper Hamish Paynter, Patty Flynn, Justin White and Brad Leggett.
Hayes believes the senior core will continue to help the younger players in the group emerge.
“It’s fantastic to have that level of experience at your disposal come match day,” he said.
“Incorporating those guys with other younger talent that the club has coming through, everyone involved in our footy club should be excited about the opportunities ahead.”
Hayes said he was looking forward to working alongside Nick Lynch, who is taking his first step into coaching following a decorated 148-game career for Macleod that included two premierships and 481 goals.
“He’s got really good knowledge of all the opposition sides within the competition and those players.
“He’s a great communicator, well respected amongst the group and I’m certain we’ll work very well together.”
Hayes said a key focus of the off-season would be implementing his game style.
“We’ll have some tweaks to the game plan because I’m a new coach coming in,” he said.
“I have new ideas, so it’ll be about integrating those ideas with the playing group to make sure that we’re all on the same page.”