ON Tuesday evening as the mercury nudged 35 degrees, a group of 30 players were put through their paces in a tough, sweaty training session.
It is that sort of commitment that has new Oberon Tigers captain-coach Josh Starling feeling optimistic ahead of the 2019 Group 10 season.
Starling takes over the helm of the premier league side from Luke Branighan, who has moved to St Pat’s, and the former NRL player is keen to implement his own brand at the club.
One of his mantras is that every player must earn their spot in the starting 13 each weekend, which is why many braved Tuesday’s heat to try to impress the new coach.
“Everyone trained together and we’re really working on that, becoming a real club again. A couple of blokes in the past feel like they’ve been left out, so we want everyone working together,” he said.
“We definitely had some spots open after last year, so to have new guys come across is great, but they’re just like everyone else. Everyone has to earn their position no matter who comes across and who we sign.
“We had a fair few turn out [at training], which is great to see that this time of year, and we had a few boys even before Christmas doing some extra stuff.
“A lot of the boys have really bought in to what we want to do. Everyone is pushing each other and working really hard. There are going to be people competing for spots every week.”
The front rower has a number of new signings to work with such as Forbes’ 2018 Group 11 grand final hero Farren Lamb, Blackheath premiership winner Matt Ranse and hooker Richard Peckham.
Tye Siakisoni, who was a member of Bathurst Panthers’ premiership winning under 18s outfit last year, is another who has made the switch.
It gives Starling plenty of depth and options – something he knows will be crucial if the Tigers are to challenge for the Group 10 crown.
“I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve got a lot of guys coming back and a lot of new people in the team this year. Hopefully it’s going to be a good year for us, but we’ve got to train hard and do everything right,” Starling said.
“It’s probably something we’ve lacked the last couple of years, a bit of depth, but we’ve got a good mix this year and plenty of people who can step up if they need to. If anyone is not putting in and not turning up to training, we’ll have someone who we can put in their spot.
“But there are a lot of teams again this year who have some very strong players. There are a lot of players who have changed over from other clubs and guys that are from around here, local juniors, who have come back; that’s really good for the comp I think.
“It’s obviously a bit nerve-wracking coaching, but it’s great to see the guys have responded really well. There are a lot of blokes that have been here for a while now, a few older heads, which is great because they’ve really helped me out as well.”
While Starling is hoping to organise some pre-season trials, with no date set of the Tigers’ opening game he has not made any firm plans.