Aberdeen Grammar have appointed a new coaching team as they look to bounce back to the Premiership at the first time of asking.
The Rubislaw side, relegated from the top flight last month, have unveiled a new-look structure which will be headed up by Kevin Burnett who will take on the role of director of rugby.
Chairman Gordon Thomson said: “Kevin comes to the post with an extensive experience of playing the game at Dundee High, and has been a driving force in our own youth set up.
“Our head coach Ali O’Connor has stepped back but will continue in the new role of attack coach. His experience will be invaluable as we attempt to rebuild for the future.
“I have, as promised, conducted a review of our organisational and coaching structure, consulted with coaches, players and supporters.
“The proposed structure has been unanimously accepted by the committee.”
The proposal includes two lead coaches – Greig Ryan and Nat Coe – who will take on the duties as from April 30 when they will start the process of taking the club out of National League 1 and back to the Premiership.
Former players Ryan, 35, and Coe, 27, will hang up their boots to concentrate on bringing back Premiership rugby to the north-east. Craig McLeod will take on the role of development coach.
There will be a family connection in the new set up with new club captain Jack Burnett, replacing the long-serving Doug Russell, joining his father Kevin in the management structure.
Burnett senior played for Dundee High at a time when Lions and Scotland legend Tom Smith was in the Mayfield line-up, as was the David Leslie, both of whom made their mark on the 55-year-old.
He said: “If we are to rebuild the game, we must focus on the development of our youngsters.
“We have just come through a difficult phase at the club, but have no doubt we are about to face another challenging one in National League 1.
“The creation of this new coaching set gives us a base to work from.
“I would also like to see us have better links with other clubs in the area. It’s an exciting development for us all.”
The concept of cooperation was echoed by the two lead coaches Ryan and Coe who having both played for Aberdeenshire and in the case of Ryan also Ellon were totally committed to local partnerships.
Ryan said: “We need to see our way to give all our youngsters the opportunity to play at the very top of the game.”
Coe pinned his faith in player development. He said: “I am delighted to be working with Greig. We share the common belief that there is a wealth of talent at the club and in Aberdeen. It is our ambition to see it emerges in the interest of the game.”
Craig McLeod will continue to retain working links with Aberdeen University, while continuing to run and coach the second team.
Former player and forwards coach Iain Stanger will return to monitor the progress of the pack which was warmly welcomed by Burnett.
He said: “Iain has been a key figure at Rubislaw for years. His influence will be appreciated.”
New club captain Jack Burnett, 28, said: “I feel very privileged to be part of this new line up.
“I will be delighted to be the go between the first team and the seconds.
“These are exciting times for the club, especially in National League 1 where including Grammar there will be three other clubs from the Caley area: Dundee, Highland and Stirling.
“So many local derbies will make for great entertainment.”