COACH Scott Coleman has spent three years establishing the Hunter Wildfires. Now the task is ensuring the Shute Shield club grows.
In a major boost, Coleman will stay at the helm for another two years. General manager Stu Pinkerton has also committed for at least another season.
After steering the Wildfires to the finals for the first time in club history this season, Coleman believes a premiership is not too far away.
"We wanted to make the semis within three years and we achieved that," Coleman said. "I'd like to think that we can win a premiership in the next two years."
However, it will take more than just Coleman and Pinkerton to make that happen.
"We need more coaching staff," Coleman said. "Our focus is on developing a better environment for learning and becoming more professional. Sydney University have five full-time staff. We are looking to raise funds to put into recruiting coaches and buying better equipment. We have been running on the smell of an oily rag. We have to get more support from sponsors and rugby lovers in the community."
On the field, Coleman is confident of retaining the core of the side which finished sixth, before going down to eventual grand finalist Norths 23-17 in the play-offs.
Donny Freeman is on trial at the Western Force and a number of other players have picked up professional deals.
Fullback Nate De Thierry, hookers Andrew Tuala and Phil Bradford, captain Rob Puli'uvea, centre Ueta Tufaga, prop Isi Fukofuka and No.8 Tiueti Asi have indicated they will be on deck.
"We will lean on those guys to lead pre-season training," Coleman said.
Super Rugby duo, prop Bo Abra, who is playing the off-season in New Zealand, and halfback Ryan Louwrens are also interested in returning.
"Bo is a Tamworth boy and sees Newcastle as a genuine pathway for country kids," Coleman said. "We have to create a pathway for country kids who don't want to live in Sydney but want to play high-level rugby and get looked at for a professional gig."
The Wildfires will field two colts (under-20s) next season as well as first, seconds and women.
The Wildfires will start pre-season training on November 18, two weeks later than this season.
"We suffered burnout in the later part of this season," Coleman said. "I need to manage that better. We will do twp days a week pre Christmas instead of four. The training will be a lot more skill development. It is such a long season. It is a double-edged sword. We have to start strong and win as many games as poss in first round because we don't have the same volume of Super Rugby players come back as other clubs."