LIAM Baxter and Tom Hawkins have left Frankston Pines and have joined Baxter.
They are the first signings that new Baxter coach Stephen Fisher hopes will bring the State 4 outfit success next season.
Scottish striker Baxter was on the books of Inverness Caledonian Thistle and a number of Highland League clubs before arriving here early in 2017 to play for Shepparton-based Goulburn Valley Suns.
He switched to Langwarrin that same year and has also been on the books of Mornington, Casey Comets, Box Hill United, Doveton and Kingston City.
Hawkins has previously played with Mornington and Peninsula Strikers.
He’s a right-sided full-back or wing-back and with young players from NPL junior programs expected to come into the side his experience will be invaluable.
“It’s a new challenge for me and it fits in with my work and family commitments as I don’t think I could commit at Pines probably as much as I’d want to in State 2,” Hawkins said.
“I’ve had a good talk to ‘Fish’ and he’s switched on and has some really good ideas.
“I guess helping out with younger players is part of my role and if the side builds the way ‘Fish’ wants it to then I fancy our chances of doing something next year.”
For Pines a repeat of the exodus that ensued after Danny Verdun stepped down as head coach in 2015 would be a nightmare scenario.
The last thing the recently promoted club needs is for new senior coach Trevor Johnston to be forced to replace first teamers who played an integral part in the club’s runner-up finish in State 3 this year.
But that’s what Johnston may confront.
Other Pines players from the senior and reserve squads are understood to be considering joining Baxter and linking again with Hayden Taylor who coached Pines reserves this year and is now Fisher’s senior assistant.
There’s talk that Pines reserves assistant coach Jamie O’Halloran will make the switch and could be joined by Dylan Waugh, Jarrod Nardino, Jamie Baxter and Alastair Wallace.
Should Nardino join he’ll be trained by new Baxter goalkeeping coach Chris Jones who needs no introduction to followers of the local game.
It’s unclear whether or not Aaran Currie will also move to Baxter Park given his close friendship with Hawkins and Liam Baxter.
If Currie and Waugh join Liam Baxter that leaves Pines forced to find a new strike force as they were the club’s top three scorers this year.
And while Pines deals with this situation State 2 rival Peninsula Strikers have announced a major coaching restructure bringing in Scott Morrison and Jason Symonds who were in charge of Mornington’s reserves this year.
Strikers have re-appointed Donn Delaney whose first year as a senior coach saw the Centenary Park outfit mount a serious promotion challenge only to falter in the last few games of the season.
Delaney and Morrison will be joint senior coaches with Steve Sheppard remaining as a senior assistant and Jake Priest re-appointed as reserves coach.
Symonds will be an assistant to both the seniors and reserves.
Kosta Drakoulakos will again be in charge of strength and conditioning, a position he also holds at Baxter.
“I think we needed this (restructure) to give us the best chance to take the club into State 1,” Delaney said.
“It came about because all parties were open to it and I think we are like-minded in the way we want to play football.
“I know Scott from the short time he was here working with Paul (Williams).
“He’s a good guy and I don’t think this would have worked with someone else.
“Scott and Jason have seen that we’ve got eight to 10 boys in the senior squad who were in the reserves and I think they are both impressed with that and excited to be involved with a club where young guys are getting onto the pitch (in the seniors).”
Strikers held their presentation night last weekend and Riley Anderton won the seniors best and fairest and Golden Boot awards, Ben Caballero was seniors Players’ Player of the Year, reserves best and fairest was Josh Botha, reserves Players’ Player of the Year was Cody Storton-French and Raholah Yousefi was reserves Golden Boot winner.
In State 1 news Mornington is considering a coaching restructure with additional assistants working with head coach Adam Jamieson and assistant coach Gerry McDonagh.
These assistants would focus on specific aspects of the game such as defending, attacking etc.
It’s also expected that there will be player announcements in coming weeks.
Meanwhile Skye United defender Brett Heskins won the seniors Players’ Player of the Year award with Mo El Hassan runner-up.
Twenty-year-old Nick Wright won the reserves Players’ Player of the Year award with Michael Putson runner-up.
And State 4 outfit Somerville confirmed late last week that Adam Steele is its senior coach for 2023.
Former player Steele, the club’s technical director, took over in a caretaker capacity for the last few games of the season following Lee Barber’s resignation.
In other State 4 news Chelsea will host a seven-a-side Spring Fling Cup for juniors, seniors and masters on 12, 19 and 26 November and players from other clubs are welcome to form a team.
It’s a social competition and games will consist of 20-minute halves and a five-minute half-time break.
Registrations must be in by Wednesday 2 November and for further details contact Rob Giabardo at firstname.lastname@example.org.