Tex is back.
The GJ Gardner Homes Whanganui Athletic 1sts will be ringing in a culture change, far beyond the inclusion of 'h' in their club's name, with the appointment of German-born football coach Tex von Kwiatkowski to the head role for 2020, replacing the departed Jason King.
A local resident since the millennium, von Kwiatkowski has known both considerable success and controversy in football circles from his time at Wanganui City FC, taking control of the 1sts around the mid-2000's, while last being involved with the City Renovators development side a few seasons ago.
Once self-described as "the most hated coach in Whanganui" because of his demand of total commitment to training regimes and repudiation of casual attitudes and "social butterflies" in his teams, von Kwiatkowski felt Athletic now have the right playing mix who can commit to going for the top.
That means success in the Federation League to the point of a genuine crack at qualifying for Central League – making the side a force in the lower North Island on the level of the powerful Wellington clubs.
A lofty goal, but after WAFC have rebuilt themselves as a viable Federation League side again with season finishes of third, fourth and fifth under King, while club president Peter Czerwonka and others has worked hard to develop a strong Under 19 programme, von Kwiatkowski feels that 20 years of laissez-faire player rule are over.
"Friday's, it was a telephone mission – can you play? Why can't you play?
"Ok, there's family and illness. But don't make it a habit of not coming – that you're missing because of weather or don't feel like it.
"[Now], it's the changes the club wants to do.
"All of a sudden, there's a different approach about how they want to do things.
"You have to have that [Central League] goal.
"Yes, you can still build youth and development and – we have built a structure on how to do that.
"And under those circumstances, my retirement finished, instead of staying home with my music."
WAFC spokesman Gary Johnston, who managed the Athletic Under 19's alongside coach Czerwonka to a strong performance in October's Napier City Rovers National Youth Tournament, said the club has laid a solid foundation through the King tenure.
The club approached von Kwiatkowski and were well aware of his views on commitment and discipline being paramount, as well as a desire to introduce more on-field structure.
Johnston said the club will have three travelling squads this season; the 1sts in Federation League, the 2nds in the Premiership, as well as a Youth team – as Zeb Small and Steve Meredith have done a lot of work at Under 16 level.
"We've got something to build on now, we felt we have a large group of committed players."
WAFC's women's side will also continue to be a feeder into the Team Ritesh Whanganui team, who found their footing last year in their third season of the Women's Federation League.
As well as the 2019 squad members, von Kwiatkowski said he has been in contact with other players interested in coming to Athletic, while there was an invited muster held on Thursday night for the players who will make up the 1sts and 2nds.
Being a "black or white" guy, von Kwiatkowski admitted he saw a couple of worried faces as he went over the expectations for the year, but all those players attending signed an agreement that outlined what is required of them.
"Working with those ones, bring it on. It will work," he said.
Wanting to make sure he gets to know all the players before the preseason gets under way, von Kwiatkowski has set a deadline of January 28 for interested personnel to sign up for the competitive-level teams.
In the 2019 season, Athletic finished with an 8-3-5 record in League play, where they became a defence-oriented squad after losing key striker Ryan Holden to injury for six games.
For the 11-team grade, Athletic had only the seventh-best scoring record (33 goals) but maintained the second-best defensive record (20), behind only unbeaten champions Havelock North Wanderers.