Oberon Tigers look to develop defensive resolve: Starling

ON BOARD: Blake Fitzpatrick is part of Josh Starling's Oberon squad ahead of next season. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN
ON BOARD: Blake Fitzpatrick is part of Josh Starling's Oberon squad ahead of next season. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN

Train hard, defend harder.

Group 10 clubs can expect a much tougher Oberon Tigers outfit in 2019 if first-year captain-coach Josh Starling has his way.

The quality-laden Tigers headed into 2018 carrying the weight of expectation but limped to fifth on the ladder and ultimately a week-one finals exit after a disappointing campaign was ended by eventual premiers Panthers in the elimination semi-final.

Determined to help the club improve on that result in 2019, Starling says a unwavering resolve in defence and a commitment to training will lift the new-look Tigers.

That new philosophy up the mountains is, Starling says, the reason behind a stack of travelling players leaving the club, with Mickey Hawkings, Ben McAlpine and Tui Oloapu joining last year’s coach Luke Branighan in the departure lounge. 

But the ex-Newcastle Knights prop is confident a greater commitment to a common cause will mean a far tougher, and in-turn improved, Oberon next season.

That’s the biggest factor in playing footy; having teammates you want to play with and a team you want to play for.

Oberon captain-coach Josh Starling.

“I know a few of the boys have left, but we’ve gone back to needing players there twice a week to train … that’s the way things are,” Starling said.

“We’d lost our way a bit the last few years and we’re looking to get it back to that team-first mentality. 

“Hawko didn’t want to leave, he didn’t want to go at all, but couldn’t commit to training twice a week and was devastated he had to go. We can’t have one rule for him and another rule for everyone else.

“We’re looking around, but we want blokes that are keen and willing to put in for their teammates. That’s the biggest factor in playing footy; having teammates you want to play with and a team you want to play for.”

Oberon started pre-season training last Saturday after announcing the likes of Jackson Brien, Jake Dawe, Blake Fitzpatrick and Andy Adams have re-signed for next season.

Joining the club is premiership-winning mid-west gun Matt Ranse, a player who almost single-handedly carried Blackheath to last year’s crown.

He scored 26 tries in 12 games.

ALL SMILES: Josh Starling will lead the Tigers for the next two seasons.

ALL SMILES: Josh Starling will lead the Tigers for the next two seasons.

“He’s a big-bodied half, he’s fast and he’s not afraid to get physical in defence which is what we’re looking for this year," Starling added.

“A few times last year we scored 30 points and lost, it’s a big focus for us this year to be strong defensively.

“It’s about putting your body on the line; if you're not willing to sacrifice yourself for anyone else than I don’t think anyone should do the same for you.”

Oberon will train again from 3.30pm on Saturday, with the club’s annual away jersey auction to be held on Saturday night.