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Heath to lead Magpies

Monday, 5th December, 2011

LEADER: Respected Central midfielder Justin Heath will combine coaching and playing in 2012 for the Magpies. LEADER: Respected Central midfielder Justin Heath will combine coaching and playing in 2012 for the Magpies.

By John Casey

Already renowned for his leadership at the Central Football Club, 200-gamer Justin Heath has upped the ante by taking on the coaching duties for the Magpies in 2012 as well.

Heath, 27, will chart a “new direction” for the Magpies, who are desperate to atone for their disappointing 2011 when they missed the finals after claiming the premiership just 12 months prior.

“The club is really looking forward to bouncing back and with Justin we believe we have the right man for the job,” outgoing CFC Vice-President Garry Sandy said.

“We were all very disappointed with what happened this year and we are putting plans in place to rectify that.

“Justin is a very popular man at our club and we are very happy with the coaching team we have put together for 2012,” Sandy continued.

Heath will combine playing and coaching duties next season with former premiership player and BH representative Brendan Cullen acting as his assistant.

Decorated former Magpie, Wayne Walker, will reprise his mentoring role that helped Central to the premiership in 2010.

“I’ll be there whenever the club needs my services, primarily in a mentoring role,” Walker explained.

“With Justin and Brendan - along with new B Grade coach Anthony Barker - the club’s coaching hierarchy is very young and if my experience can be a help, I’m happy to pitch in.

“The club really is looking for a new direction now and with a few players returning in 2012 and I’m sure we will improve next year,” Walker added.

The three-way partnership between Heath, Cullen and Walker should be a productive one as the trio shared in Central’s premiership success in 2010. 

Walker was also Heath’s first A Grade coach when the Burra-born midfielder made his BH debut in 2000.

With 200 games under his belt, Heath has been a tremendous servant for the Magpies since moving to BH with his family in 1990 and working his way through the junior ranks.

His stellar career has so far yielded three premierships, a club best and fairest and the 2006 Lionel Johnston Medal.

That pedigree, his five years as captain and experience at the selection table, suggest Heath is readymade for the coaching role that was vacated by Jarrod Hinton in October.

However, Heath’s girlfriend Maggie - a “great support” throughout his career according to the new coach - may now see less of her partner.

Outgoing coach Hinton is a big fan of his replacement, telling the BDT “he’s an absolute champion” on the eve of Heath’s 200th game in August.

“He’s tough, courageous and he’s got a leg that’s just a lethal weapon,” Hinton enthused.

“He’s all you could ask for in a captain - some do their job through their talk, but he goes out and leads with his actions. He’d do anything for anybody and expect nothing in return,” Hinton remarked.   

Assistant coach Cullen also comes highly regarded having played more than 150 games for Central, represented Broken Hill and captured a Mail Medal.

And with Walker’s experience to call on as well, 2012 will bring new optimism for the Magpie faithful.

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