The dust hasn’t yet settled on Bathurst St Pat’s injury-ravaged 2018 Group 10 campaign, but the club has wasted little time making massive waves for 2019.
Luke Branighan has signed on as captain-coach for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the two-year deal with the Bathurst club drawing the curtain on his two year tenure at Oberon.
Branighan has enjoyed two strong years with the Tigers, making the 2017 Group 10 grand final before appearances in the final games at both this year’s West Wyalong and Bathurst knockouts.
But this season has been a touch turbulent: the ex-NRL half was stood down by the club prior to round one before later being reinstated.
The Tigers enjoy a bye for the final round of the 2018 premiership this weekend and will line-up in next week’s elimination semi-final at either Carrington Park or Wade Park, depending on Sunday’s result.
Branighan’s focus is on the Tigers and making a run at this year’s title, but was thrilled to have his playing future sorted.
“I am very excited and grateful for the opportunity to captain-coach Bathurst St Pats,” he said in a statement.
“I am very impressed with the vision Dave Chapman, Daniel Finn and Graham Ward have for the club and believe I can take the premier league team to the next level, very similar to what I have done here at Oberon Tigers.
“I really enjoyed working with Daniel Finn and Gary Goldsmith during the All Stars concept and I have heard nothing but good things about the club.
“In saying that I will be making no further comment until the end of season, as my priority at the moment lies here with the Oberon Tigers and our 2018 campaign.
“Every competition we have entered the last two years we have made the final … and another grand final appearance is the plan.
“I’m very close with a lot of the players and the fans and there would be nothing better than to finish with a premiership here.”
I have heard nothing but good things about the club.Luke Branighan.
St Pat’s president David Chapman said the deal was signed off on Thursday afternoon.
The St Pat’s boss said the recruitment of Branighan won’t mean they lose this year’s coach Greg Behan, with the Group 10 prop signing on as a player for next year.
“Which speaks volumes of the club and the maturity of Greg,” Chapman said.
“He would have loved another crack but felt a bloke of Branighan’s experience … he ticks so many boxes, for him to take our young squad under his wing to mentor is a massive step in the right direction for us as a club.”
Branighan has indicated to the club he’s keen to play as part of the deal, but Chapman says the classy half won’t be under any pressure to take the field in 2019.
Branighan has battled injury in his time at Oberon, playing eight of the club’s 16 regular season games this winter.
“The way Luke’s agreement is framed, it’s really a coaching agreement first and foremost, so there’s no pressure on him to play,” Chapman added.
“But he’s adamant he’s still got a few more years in the legs.”
St Pat’s play CYMS on Sunday at Wade Park in what will be the blue and white’s final game of the 2018 season.