Ben Higgins, Diamond Valley Leader
September 30, 2019 2:00pm

Local football coaching legend Robert Hyde will lead Eltham in 2020.

Hyde returns to the Northern Football League after a season as coaching director at EDFL club West Coburg.

The Panthers snared the experienced mentor to take over from interim co-coaches Michael Still and Brent Macaffer, who replaced Paul King mid-season.

The chance to work with son-in-law Tom Snell and the Division 2 club’s strong list and exciting juniors lured Hyde to Eltham Central Park.

“I’m looking forward to it, I’m really excited,” he said.

“Eltham are a really good club, well run, a real focus on developing the kids — they had two under-19s this year and the 17s were runners-up — there’s a pretty bright future.

A Copeland Trophy winner at Collingwood in 1976, Hyde led Calder Cannons to three NAB League premierships and guided Greensborough to the 1983, 1984 and 2014 NFL Division 1 premierships.

Hyde had a pretty simple philosophy for off-season recruiting and pre-season training.

“There’s a couple of blokes that played for Eltham a few years ago and hopefully we can entice them to come back,” he said.

“The under-19s won the (Division 1) premiership and the seconds’ average age was only about 22, so it’s about developing the kids that are there and then supplement them with a few other players.

“We’ll set some short-term and long-term goals, have a good pre-season and they’ve got to learn the way I’d like them to play.

“Then we aim to win the first game and make the finals, and as we saw this year in Division 1 it doesn’t matter where you finish you can have a crack after that.

“I think this will be my 37th or 38th year of coaching but footy’s footy … you adjust and learn a bit and get along with people and getting them to come on board to the way we might be successful.”

After falling agonisingly short of promotion in 2018, the Panthers’ season ended in the preliminary final against eventual premier Whittlesea.

Brent Macaffer claimed the Division 2 league best-and-fairest in a three-way tie with Eagle Xavier Dimasi and Banyule’s Riley Loton, while Anton Woods finished a vote behind.

Macaffer, Woods, Still and Matthew Keys were also named in the competition’s Team of the Year.

In the under-19s Riley Byrne finished third in the league best-and-fairest, while Lorne Waldron was runner-up in the under-17s award.