Changes to Country Coaching Ranks in 2023

In the second of a series Peter Argent looks at another group of the new personnel across the coaching ranks in SA Country football. From former AFL footballers to locally servants a number have made to move into this pivotal role.


Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara Football League

South Australian state country forward, Tom Whittlesea, now moving into his third year in KNT football with the Bordertown Roosters, is taking over as playing coach in 2023.

The Roosters are looking for a first premiership in over a decade, last winning the title back in 2012.

A further three years before that, in 2009, Whittlesea played in the Burra-Booborowie-Hallett Rams’ inaugural A grade premiership as a 15-year-old, with that breakthrough victory coached by his father Peter.

“Listening to Dad over the years, it is an area I have always considered getting into (coaching),” Tom Whittlesea told

“Dad has always been someone I always chatted to over years and listened to about the game.

“I love the competitiveness of footy and it was time to take this step as I always wanted to have a crack at coaching.

“Having been involved in junior state programs and at SANFL level, I reckon I’m pretty up to date with the current structures and looking forward to pushing for the ultimate result.

“‘2012 Roosters captain Tim Harkness and Josh Barrass, who spent some time with Jervois, will be my bench coaches.”

North Adelaide premiership forward Lewis Hender will take over the at his foundation club, the Keith Crows next year.

Highly experienced across SANFL ranks and through the Adelaide Football League, Sean Jackson, will be the Kingston Saints non playing coach in ’23, while Jack Kelly has taken the role at the Kybybolite Tigers.

New Bordertown coach Tom Whittlesea (left) receives advice from his father and coach, Peter, while playing at Burra Booborowie Hallett. Picture – Peter Argent

Western Border Football League

In the Western Border League, the East Gambier Bulldogs will have the successful Keith Ransom and last year’s Hatherleigh Eagles coach Jake Dowdy share the role.

Ransom, a former player who twice enjoyed premiership success at West Gambier will be in a non-playing role, while Jake Dowdy will also don the playing boots.  Dowdy kicked 38 goals for the Eagles in 2022.

Mid South East Football League

At the neighbouring Mid South East Football League, there have been a number of changes.

Port MacDonnell have secured the services of Josh Woodall, a former South Gambier Demons and Jervois midfielder.

A recent Karoonda coach from the Mallee League and former West Adelaide footballer, Nathan Brown, takes the role at the Robe Roosters.

At the Tantanoola Tigers, Jack Dawe is their new mentor. He previously played at East Gambier and has been at Tantanoola for the past few seasons.

Last year’s non-playing assistant coach at Nangwarry, Shane Raymond, is now the senior coach for the Saints.

Port Lincoln Football League

One of the biggest coaching announcements on the west coast is goal kicking ace Johann Wagner joining Lincoln South.

He played SANFL League football at Central District and won the ‘Recruit’ reality TV show on Foxtel, receiving an AFL rookie contract with Port Adelaide.

Wagner also donned the prison bars for the Magpies in the SANFL.

His local club in Port Lincoln has been Tasmans but he spent the last two seasons with Cummins Kapinnie, who he played with as a junior. He also had a season with the South Clare Demons.

Eastern Eyre Football League

In the Eastern Eyre competition, the Cowell Cats have named local publican Kym Martens as their coach and are expecting a big turn-around in fortunes following two winless seasons.



Great Flinders Football League

Taking over from another club stalwart George Pedler, born and bred Rambler, Julian Wait returns to his foundation club as senior coach for 2023.

The Cummins Ramblers, in the Great Flinders competition, have been one of the most successful clubs in SA country football, with 42 flags since their inception in 1919.

A best-and-fairest winner at the Mortlock Shield (Bampton Medallist) whilst still in Year 12 at Cummins Area School, Wait, was drafted by Collingwood the same year and was on Brisbane’s list in 1993.

He played exactly 100 senior SANFL games for Port Adelaide, being a member of the 1999 eight-point league premiership win against Norwood.

Wait also won the Eric Pfitzner Medal when playing with Port Districts in the Division One Amateur League for his performances in the 2004 season.

Newly appointed Cummins Ramblers coach Julian Wait (far left) celebrating Port Adelaide’s 1999 SANFL premiership.

Broken Hill Football League

In the Silver City, the South Broken Hill Football Club has Craig Thomas returning to the role of senior coach after a few years away from the game.

He has already enjoyed flag-winning success with South in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018.

At the North Bulldogs, Mark Pitt is back in charge. He coached North to a flag in 2013 and has spent the last few years been involved with North’s junior program.

The West Robins Football Club have secured Nathan Pearce as its new senior coach.

He has coached a number grades at West, but this is his first gig with the A-grade team. He has also coached in the Central West of New South Wales.

Riverland Football League

The first home of Port Adelaide legend Russell Ebert, the Loxton Tigers, have secured Luke Harder as their senior playing coach, with former state country footballer and 2010 All-Australian, who had a stint at South Adelaide, Leigh Kruger his assistant.

Harder was a 100-plus game player at the Port Adelaide Magpies and a SANFL Team of the Year half-forward.

Terry Eleftheridis returns to the Loxton North Panthers, a team he has previous taken to the “Holy Grail” for a second time.

Eleftheridis has enjoyed an extensive career across a number of clubs through the district, including a premiership at the currently disbanded Cobdogla Football Club, along with stints at the Berri Demons, Barmera Monash and Lyrup Lions.

A multiple premiership player at the Renmark Rovers, Fraser Sampson, is trying his hand at the Barmera Monash Roos, while the Waikerie Magpies have secured Michael Kilsby as their new coach.

New Loxton Tigers coach Luke Harder in action for Port Adelaide in the SANFL. Picture – Peter Argent

Hills Football League

Former West Adelaide and Essendon wingman Kieran Sporn, who coached Goodwood in Adelaide Football League’s Division One a decade and a half ago, is the new mentor at the Blackwood Football Club.

Kieran is the son of North Adelaide 1971/72 premiership player and Champions of Australia (1972) ruckman Garry, who hailed from Murrayville.

Ben Venning and Alex Scott will be Sporn’s assistants.

After two years at the Kadina Bloodhounds in Yorke Peninsula football, Rian Nelson, who started his coaching career at Barossa District, will be in charge the Birdwood Football Club in 2023.

Matt Down will replace former playing-coach and Norwood’s 2012 Jack Oatey Medallist Dean Terlich at Uraidla Districts next year.

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