ALMOST three decades have come and gone since Richard Sharp won a top grade premiership as captain-coach of St Pat's, but now he's back and seeking more success with the Saints.
He will do it as coach of the men's Premier League Hockey side.
Plenty has changed since Sharp was last involved with the Saints. Back then the club's top side played in the Bathurst first grade competition against Kelso, Souths and Waratahs.
Now the blue and whites are part of the regional competition. While the men's side of the draw did not go ahead in 2020 due to COVID-19, this year it has returned and the Saints will battle with Lithgow Panthers, Parkes and Orange Wanderers for glory.
But what hasn't changed since Sharp left Bathurst in 1993 is his passion for the Saints.
"I'm an old St Pat's boy, I grew up in Bathurst and played for St Pat's for a long, long time," he said.
"I was really fortunate when I came up and started playing first grade when I was about 15, we were still playing on the grass, I got to play with some legends like Ray Howard and Kel Cooke, those sort of guys, Wayne Fulton and Ken Fulton were still around.
"So it was a tremendous grounding for me to be able to play with those sorts of people. There's really good memories and fond memories from those times."
After relocating to Lithgow and starting his family, Sharp transitioned from player to coach.
He coached New South Wales teams, junior Lithgow district sides then spent four years as first grade mentor for Ryde.
"The second year I was down there with Ryde we won the first grade premiership, that was the first time they'd won it in 50-odd years. There was a bit of synergy to that because the first time I captained-coached St Pat's, in 92 I think that was, we won first grade for the first time in a long time," he said.
Though there are changes for the Saints' Premier League outfit since they last played a full season - they were crowned champions in 2019 - there is still an experienced core.
Jaden Ekert and Shane Conroy - players who have also coached the Saints - are on deck this season as is Brent Naylor.
Another man with a host of Premier League games to his credit - Niel Howard - will help out for at least this Saturday's season opener.
Sharp is delighted to have them on deck, but he's just as excited to see how the younger Saints develop this season.
"I'm really excited about Fletcher Norris, he's a really nice player and he should go places and we've also got Andre Rossitt," he said.
"Tyler Willott, I'm very impressed with Tyler too. He's a nice player and I'm expecting big things from him and we've picked up Cody Sherman from Kelso - I played a lot of hockey with his Dad Kevin."
Sharp expects Parkes, the Saints' opponents in Saturday's opener, will also have a youthful element to their squad.
"They appear to be going through a bit of a rebuilding phase, so they've got a lot of young fellas coming through which is great for them," he said. "We played them in the gala day and they gave us some good competition."
The Saints season-opening game against Parkes in Parkes starts at 2pm.
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