The appointment of Sea Eagles assistant coach and True Blue John Cartwright and Victoria Cross recipient Mark Donaldson to the NSW VB Blues in 2017 are among key changes announced today by the NSWRL Board following a review of the 2016 State of Origin campaign.

Cartwright, the former Titans NRL coach who played eight games for the Blues (1989-92), has been appointed to the role of assistant coach to Laurie Daley, while Donaldson, who holds Australia’s highest honour for a soldier for his contribution to the War in Afghanistan, will be an assistant team manager.

The Board also agreed to implement other key recommendations which include the formation of a leadership program, to identify and develop leaders in the current and future generations; and a specialist training program, involving True Blues working with specific positional groups.

The Board also supported a recommendation for a different approach to preparation for Game Two in Sydney in 2017 compared with the Brisbane SOO matches in Games One and Three.

Daley will prepare the team for the Sydney game at a Sydney location; and the Brisbane matches at a venue outside of Sydney, yet to be finalised.

More specific details on the programs, training camp venues and the possibility of a new coaching advisor will be announced in the coming weeks.

“I am really excited about the changes and grateful for the Board’s support,” said Daley, who was a Blues team-mate of Cartwright, with the pair making their NSW debuts in 1989.

“John is a well-respected and credentialed coach and has played at the highest level of the game, for NSW and Australia.

“Mark Donaldson VC is an incredible man who was involved with the Blues in camps two and three this year in a mentoring capacity.

“He will add a new dimension to our program, for both the staff and players, with his integrity and values aligned with the culture and team values we aspire to.”

Cartwright said he was thrilled to be given the opportunity to work with the best players in the game in three high-pressured matches.

“It was a major surprise to be asked by Laurie to be involved,” Cartwright said. “I was overseas when I got the call and couldn’t contain my excitement.

“I couldn’t wait to talk to Manly and jump on board with Laurie. I am really grateful to Trent Barrett, Bob Fulton and the Manly Club who have been very supportive of my appointment.

“It is a very exciting time to be involved and a great honour.”

Donaldson VC said: “I feel honoured and humbled to be accepted into such an exclusive team.

“The commitment to each other that the team showed this year was inspiring and the opportunity to be involved and engaged in that journey into the future for me will be about growing on that success.”