Super Rugby's Western Force nab Hawke's Bay Magpies coach Mark Ozich
Hawke's Bay Magpies coach Mark Ozich is heading to Oz.
The popular coach has accepted a full-time role on the Western Force coaching roster for Super Rugby Pacific.
Ozich said on Sunday that signing with the Force was "really bittersweet".
"I've had the most amazing time coaching the Magpies over the last five years and will leave at the end of the season with some incredible memories, strong friendships and plenty of lessons learned along the way.
"A move to Perth with my family is an exciting prospect and I am looking forward to the challenge of coaching Super Rugby."
The Magpies squad was told of Ozich's prospective move on Friday.
Ozich told Hawke's Bay Today in 2020 that he was contracted until the end of the 2021 season "depending on how things go".
Things have since gone well for the popular coach, who is respected for his technical coaching nous and player management skills.
In 2020, the Magpies won the NPC Championship division and the Ranfurly Shield and Ozich said his focus remained on continuing that success for the rest of the current Bunnings NPC season.
Hawke's Bay Rugby chief executive Jay Campbell said it was "simply a matter of time" before Ozich's coaching ability was recognised and credited him for forming an "outstanding culture" at the Magpies.
"[His] success comes down to the fact Oz is a great human who is universally respected."
Campbell said Ozich had done it the hard way, having not followed the traditional route of a rugby coach. He never played first-class rugby and developed his trade through club, schools and representative rugby.
Western Force, formed in 2006, finished third in Super Rugby Australia in 2021 with four wins and four losses.
It was an upward move from 2020 when the team was last in the Super Rugby AU competition.
When the New Zealand and Australian Super rugby powers combined in Super Rugby Transtasman this season, the Force landed eighth on the table, after losing all five matches.
Ozich's coaching CV has included coaching or assisting with NZ Secondary School teams and the Southland Stags.
A role at Hastings Boys' High lured him to Hawke's Bay in 2016.
From Hastings Boys', Ozich transitioned to an assistant role with the Magpies in 2017, before securing the vacant head coach position in November that year after Hawke's Bay Magpies coach Craig Philpott took up a job with New Zealand Rugby.
In 2019, after good team performances, Ozich's two-year contract was extended.
In a pre-season interview in 2020, he revealed honesty was a key element of his coaching philosophy.
"I think, keeping it really simple for the guys around honesty, an honest effort, honesty around homework, honesty with your performance."
Ozich also has a knack for identifying and bringing young talent into the game and a healthy respect for fans.