COLLINGWOOD assistant Scott Burns has taken the next step towards becoming a senior coach, headlining the 2017 intake for the AFL's exclusive coaching accreditation course.
Burns, who has long been flagged as a senior coach in waiting, was one of six coaches accepted for the third year of the level four program, along with Sydney's Brett Kirk and Port Adelaide's Brendon Lade.
Leigh Tudor (North Melbourne), Dean Solomon (Gold Coast) and Steven King (Western Bulldogs) round out the successful candidates, reflecting an industry consensus on the next wave of senior coaches.
After a lengthy interview process, the AFL on Monday evening notified the successful candidates, who will be assigned an individual mentor and complete workshops with successful international coaches.
The two-year curriculum is based on a model from the International Council for Coach Education and is tailored to each coach's experience level.
The course's development has been led by the AFL's Michael Poulton, with input from former senior coaches Brendan McCartney and Neale Daniher as well as Essendon coach John Worsfold during its infancy.
Nineteen coaches have now been involved in the program, with the inaugural group of nine completing their exit interviews at the end of last year.
Last year's intake – which will remain active in 2017 – included Justin Longmuir (West Coast) and Jade Rawlings (Melbourne), as well as Peter Sumich and Brett Montgomery, who have since left the AFL system.
It is expected the course will eventually become mandatory for all senior coaching candidates when it has a proven track record of success.
Senior coaches Brendon Bolton (Carlton) and Simon Goodwin (Melbourne) were part of the inaugural intake in 2015.
Burns, 42, has been a serious contender for a number of senior coaching vacancies in recent seasons but did not enter the race for the Brisbane Lions position filled by Chris Fagan.
In charge of Collingwood's midfield since 2014, he started his apprenticeship with West Coast in 2009 but left the club when he was overlooked for the senior position at the end of 2013.
Kirk, who spent his first three seasons as an assistant at Fremantle, returned to Sydney in 2016 as forwards coach and had an immediate impact, with the team's scoring increasing by two goals a game.
The 40-year-old took control of the Swans' coaches box for the team's opening JLT Community Series game this year and said becoming a senior coach was something he would look at eventually if given the opportunity.
Tudor, the most experienced of the inductees at 47, has also been given an opportunity in the hot seat this pre-season, taking the reins from Brad Scott.
An assistant at Geelong, St Kilda and Sydney during successful periods, he was a candidate for the Essendon position during James Hird's 12-month suspension in 2014.
Lade, 40, has been an AFL assistant since 2010, starting his career at Richmond and filling ruck, midfield and stoppage coach roles before joining Port Adelaide ahead of the 2017 season.
King was a member of the Bulldogs' 2016 premiership coaching panel and is highly rated in the industry, joining the Level Four course in his 10th season as an assistant.
The 38-year-old started at St Kilda under Ross Lyon in 2008 and joined the Bulldogs ahead of the 2012 season, where he led the midfield before moving to the backline in 2017.
Solomon, 37, joined Gold Coast as an assistant ahead of the Suns' inaugural 2011 season and has been praised for his work with the club's defenders.
As well as Bolton and Goodwin, the inaugural intake of the level four course included John Barker (Carlton), Stuart Dew (Sydney), Robert Harvey (Collingwood), Adam Kingsley (St Kilda), Simon Lloyd (Geelong), Matthew Nicks (Port Adelaide) and Blake Caracella (Richmond).