Key Points:

If there is a common refrain that the best players are being drained out of club rugby, the same cannot be said of coaches.

As the club rugby season bursts into life again next week, some of the game's top players are returning as coaches. Others are stamping their mark as thoughtful and innovative leaders - like Suburb's Greg Doolan, the man who made headlines all around the world last year when he coached western Bay of Plenty club Arataki from last to first in the competition by, among other devices, banning alcohol.

He became instantly famous internationally for his "club with no beer" regime although it was rather less reported that his various coaching techniques -including focusing his players on achievement rather than alcohol - worked a treat.

Doolan is now coaching Suburbs, a team which slipped down to Auckland's Premier Two competition last year. Doolan's effect on the club will be interesting to watch although he has not said he will be applying anything like the measures he put in place at Arataki.

Another coach with an interesting perspective is Counties' Weymouth coach Richard Cunningham - a referee by morning and a coach by afternoon.

Weymouth have had discipline problems in the recent past and Cunningham has some straight-talking assessments of his players' need to accept refereeing decisions and focus on their own actions and discipline.

"I will not be welcoming any player who was involved... in what I would say was unacceptable behaviour," he said. "I don't want them at the club or at training. I want people who want to learn, play and who are committed to the team."

Commitment is also behind a raft of former players who have taken to the coaching role this year or returned for another season. In Auckland, former barnstorming Wellington and Manawatu No 8 Emosi Koloto is taking charge of newly promoted Papatoetoe.

Grammar-Carlton will be guided by former Auckland player Brandon Jackson, former Manawatu frontrower Mana Otai moves from Te Papapa to Marist and Ofisa Tonu'u continues his successful association with Waitakere.

In North Harbour, former All Black and Otago halfback Dean Kenny takes over at East Coast Bays, Harbour's Ian Calder coaches Massey this year and former Warriors league player Ben Lythe will be a player-coach at Mahurangi this year.

In Counties, Gary Millington and former All Black flanker Mark Brooke-Cowden team up at Pukekohe, Counties stalwarts Paul Tuoro and Robert Kururangi are together again at Manurewa and tall lock Darryl Williams is coaching Ardmore Marist.

In addition, Harbour boasts one of the few teams to have a representative cricket player coaching a club team - although Takapuna's Alex O'Dowd also has a prime rugby background.