GEELONG premiership star Harry Taylor has taken his first step towards a potential coaching career when his playing days are over, joining the 2017 intake of the Next Coach program.
Taylor will be joined in this year's course by Richmond ruckman Ivan Maric, North Melbourne forward Lindsay Thomas and Fremantle rookie Brady Grey.
Run by coaching veteran David Wheadon, the Next Coach program focuses its students on the concepts and ideas behind "the art of coaching", not just the methods.
The elite course has been successful in guiding players into assistant roles when they retire, with 37 of the 59 graduates now employed in AFL roles.
Taylor said he hoped the course would give him the skills to be a better leader as a senior player, while also opening up the possibility of a coaching career when he retires.
"There's a level of expectation as a senior player at our club that you help educate and coach your teammates and we've had 26 new players join our list over the last three years," Taylor told AFL.com.au.
"I'm hoping this more pointed coaching I'll be getting will help me in developing relationships, imparting knowledge and helping educate other people.
"The other reason is simple, if I do go into coaching down the track this will give me a good grounding and a head start to being the best coach I can become."
Wheadon, who is known for pushing his students and challenging their beliefs, is the author of 'The Art of Coaching' and enjoyed a lengthy career as an AFL assistant.
He worked under 11 senior coaches, from Tom Hafey to Ross Lyon, and played a part in Essendon's 1993 premiership and Geelong's 2007 and 2009 flags.
His program – which is being broadened in 2017 to include community level coaches for the first time – will include up to 30 students and is supported by the AFL Coaches Association and AFL Players Association.
AFLCA CEO Mark Brayshaw said the scope of the program's intake had been broadened to help community coaches earn promotion into the AFL system.
"We need to make sure new coaches coming into the game aren't all off the conveyer belt of ex-players," Brayshaw said.
"The players only get one chance at a career and there's a powerful obligation on coaches to deliver and optimise their chance.
"David has had extraordinary experience in coaching and his program will reference great coaches in the AFL and all over the world."
Dean Cox (West Coast), Chris Newman (Hawthorn) and Lenny Hayes (GWS) are among those to complete Wheadon's year-long course and move into coaching positions.
The list of graduates also includes a further six players still at AFL clubs, including Sam Mitchell (West Coast), Aaron Sandilands (Fremantle) and Sam Docherty (Carlton).
AFLPA head of player development Brett Johnson said the program would give players the knowledge they need to make a successful transition into coaching.
"This gives them a bit of perspective on what the broader industry is doing, so when they do leave the game they've got a better understanding of what is involved," Johnson said.
"Players are more aware now that they're not going to get a coaching job straight out of football and they need to educate themselves and get further experience."
The Next Coach Program launched in 2009 with Adam Simpson selected as Wheadon's first student and Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin joining the second intake in 2010.
The course is separate to the AFL's Level Four accreditation, predominantly focusing on players preparing to step into coaching once they retire.
This year's intake will also include Gold Coast development coach Nick Malceski and former Melbourne player Daniel Ward, who is coaching Old Haileybury in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
Coaches still interested in joining the Next Coach Program can find more information here.