Nat Coe knew the time was right to move into coaching with Aberdeen Grammar after dealing with ongoing concussion issues.
At 27, Coe is calling time on his playing career and focusing on transitioning into coaching, where he will share lead duties at Rubislaw with team-mate Greig Ryan.
He is likely to be one of the youngest coaches in the country next season, but will have a strong support base around him, with a number of familiar faces remaining on-board to oversee Grammar’s rebuild.
There are no qualms about stopping playing for Coe, as he prepares to throw all his efforts into the coaching side of the game.
“I made the decision to retire at the end of the season after another concussion,” said Coe. “I’ve had a few issues with that and got offered the opportunity by the club to do some coaching.
“Over the last three or four years, I’ve had a bit of trouble with my head and I always knew if I was to be concussed again, that would be it.
“It was relatively good timing, with the club changing the coaching structure and me looking for a way to stay involved with the club. It all fell into place.
“I’m a PE teacher by trade and I’ve enjoyed that side of things. When I stopped playing, I wanted to remain as committed and involved as I would be if I was playing.
‘The buck stops with us’
“I’ll be putting in more work than I was when I was playing, which is quite exciting.
“Myself and Greig are pretty inexperienced coaches, so we were really keen we had other coaches around us, like Ali O’Connor and Iain Stanger, to advise us and guide us as much as they can.
“The buck stops with us and it’s up to us to make a difference. But having the experience around us is going to be important.”
Coe and Ryan will be working in tandem with one another, but they both have their areas of expertise. Ryan was a seasoned back row player and will be able to focus on the forwards, while Coe will look at the defensive side of the game.
Former head coach O’Connor will be an attack coach and Stanger will help with the pack.
As part of the restructure at the club, Grammar have appointed a new captain in Jack Burnett.
The forward has played all of his rugby at Grammar and came through the ranks at Rubislaw. He succeeds Doug Russell in the role.
“Jack has been involved with the club for a long time and has a huge amount of respect from players and supporters,” said Coe. “That’s a really important part of the club captain role.
“He’s been at the club since he was a junior so knows how things work. As the face of the club, he was a good fit.
“Doug did a huge amount of work in his role as club captain and I know Jack is ambitious and motivated to do something similar.”
Focusing on the big picture
While Grammar have their own aspirations of climbing back up to the top-tier of Scottish Rugby, Coe recognises that they have a part to play in the bigger picture of north rugby.
They will be joined in National One by Dundee and Highland and, as a trio, will be crucial in making sure clubs north of Perth have a voice in the Scottish game.
Next season’s Premiership will have no clubs north of Edinburgh, while the Super 6 franchise tournament has had well-publicised issues with only including central-belt teams.
“If you look at somewhere like New Zealand, they have players and teams from all corners of a pretty small country,” added Coe. “I certainly feel the bigger picture for Scottish rugby has to be tapping in to every corner of Scotland, making the best use of home-grown talent.
“If we can do our bit in the north, as a trio, we need to be focusing more on the big picture at times.
“Derbies are a great way of getting communities involved and I think with the three of us in the league this year, we can drum up a bit of excitement about rugby in the north. We can have a united front taking rugby forward and making ourselves heard at Murrayfield, for what we offer the amateur game.
“The short-term goal is to get everyone enjoying their rugby again, from the supporters right down to our minis section. Then we really need to look at performances and stringing some wins together again.”