FOOTBALL: A team stacked with players who've learned their craft on the Sunshine Coast is the vision that new Fire coach Roger Hardwicke has for the region's state league outfit.
Hardwicke was last week named as the third coach in as many seasons to take the reins of the National Premier Leagues Queensland battlers, as it looks to return to the same heights it reached in the former Queensland Soccer League.
It comes after Sam Saif took over the reins on the eve of the 2016 season, after former coach Paul Arnison fell out with Fire hierarchy.
With more than 25 years of experience in football on the Coast, Hardwicke believes he's the man who can take the Fire back to the top, even if it takes two to three years.
And the way he plans to do it is with Sunshine Coast players on his side.
The Kawana Force player and premiership-winning coach said he'd been in contact with some of Fire's 2016 players after his signing was announced last week.
But as he looks to build a "winning culture” at Bokarina, he said the next step would be enticing local players to take the next step.
"(They've) got to want to do it,” he said.
"There's a lot of great players who play on the Coast and are happy playing at local club level. If they are happy (to continue) that's great. It's the second tier (in Australia) the only level up is the A-League and if you want to test yourself then the Fire is the place to be.”
Hardwicke was "delighted” to get the nod for season 2017 and it's a title he respects.
"There's only 12 of these positions in Queensland so to be given the opportunity to coach at NPL level is really exciting,” he said.
He also revealed he is determined to put the Fire back on top, no matter how long it takes.
"That's why I've taken on the job. It's an opportunity to build a winning side, whether that takes one year, two years, or longer.”
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