LUKE Saunders has stepped down as Gisborne coach because of health reasons.
The 32-year-old was diagnosed with an ear-related virus – Sudden Sensory Neural Hearing Loss – which affects his balance.
The virus restricted him to playing just four games and it’s now forced him to step down as coach less than a month after Gisborne lost a thrilling grand final to Golden Square by three points.
“The job was Luke’s if he wanted it, but he has rightly decided to put his health first,’’ Gisborne coach Graeme Love said yesterday.
“Luke did a magnificent job as coach and we’d love him to be coaching the club again, but he has to look after his health.”
The Bulldogs have advertised for a new coach with Saunders’ assistant coach of the past two years Kevin Fitzgerald expected to apply for the job.
Fitzgerald, a premiership coach with Lancefield in the Riddell District Football League, is highly regarded by Saunders and the players.
“We need to get moving on a replacement for Luke because pre-season training is only a month or so away,’’ Love said.
“We’ve already had a couple of applicants, so we’ll see where it leads us.”