Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team head coach Mark Ozich and his assistant Josh Syms have extended their contracts through until the end of the 2021 season.
The pair, who are in their second season together with the Magpies, have guided the side to an unbeaten run during the first five rounds of this season's Mitre 10 Cup Championship following a semifinal exit last year. Ozich was an assistant coach for head coach Craig Philpott in 2017 when the Magpies finished sixth.
"Mark and Josh have worked tirelessly since being appointed almost two years ago and the board has complete faith in their abilities as coaches and believe these two are without doubt in the best position to keep progressing Hawke's Bay rugby forward," Hawke's Bay Rugby Union CEO Jay Campbell said today.
"Mark has made huge strides as a head coach at Mitre 10 Cup level in a very short time frame. He is not only a very gifted rugby coach, he is also a great man, so it is no surprise at all to us that we have seen the Magpies performances improve significantly under his guidance.
"We are excited that Oz has agreed to continue as head coach and believe he is best placed to lead the Magpies to trophies and ultimately back into the Premiership. The last 18 months has seen huge learnings for both coaches and along with our vast array of local talent our rugby community should be very excited about the future direction of the Magpies.
"This announcement ensures that the Magpies will have continuity throughout the next two seasons as we look for sustained success in this competition."
Before coaching the Magpies father of three Ozich, 41, coached the Hastings Boys' High School first XV to a second place at the National Top Four tournament in 2016. A former Waitemata club player in Auckland who made 105 premier appearances, Ozich is also a former New Zealand Secondary Schools and Southland Boys' High School first XV mentor and a former member of the Southland NPC team's coaching staff.
Former Wairarapa Bush Heartland Championship team head coach Syms has enhanced his reputation as a set piece mentor.
"Josh has done an excellent job with the Magpies forwards to date and in conjunction with Oz has formed a highly successful coaching partnership that we believe is only just beginning to see its true potential. The next two years are exciting with these men at the helm," Campbell said.
"I'm very pleased to be extending my time here with the Magpies and the HBRFU. It is a job that I'm both privileged to do and proud to be involved with," Ozich said today before the Magpies travelled to Hamilton to prepare for tomorrow night's crossover clash against Waikato.
"I'm grateful for the continued opportunity with the Magpies and the HBRFU. It's been great working with Mark Ozich over the past two years establishing a new direction for the Magpies and continuing to extend the legacy of the black and white jersey, I look forward to more success and growth over the next two years," Syms said.
A son of former long-serving Auckland hooker Dave Syms who played for the 1977 New Zealand Universities side which beat the Lions, Syms will also continue in his coach development role which involves the coaching and upskilling of coaches and will see him continuing to work closely with Hawke's Bay schools and clubs to develop coaching skills across the region.
"I am delighted to be continuing my role with coach education in Hawke's Bay. It is an area I have real passion in, with my background as a coach and school teacher. We are blessed to have some excellent up and coming coaches in the region and I hope I can continue to help provide them with a pathway and the support they require."
Father of four Syms, 38, coached the Kelston Boys' High School first XV with Ozich for two seasons and the pair also worked together with the 2013 Southland ITM Cup squad and Southland Boys' High School first XV.
With their long term futures settled Ozich and Syms' focus is now firmly on winning this season's Championship.