Bathurst Panthers confirm Josh Starling's recruitment for 2020 Group 10 premier league season

MEN IN BLACK: Outgoing Oberon captain-coach Josh Starling has signed with Bathurst Panthers for the 2020 season. Photo: ANYA WHITELAW
MEN IN BLACK: Outgoing Oberon captain-coach Josh Starling has signed with Bathurst Panthers for the 2020 season. Photo: ANYA WHITELAW

A TOUGH month has been made tougher for the Oberon Tigers with the announcement Bathurst Panthers have signed Josh Starling.

It comes after the Tigers agreed to release former NRL player Starling as captain/coach on compassionate grounds.

Tigers secretary Neil O'Grady said in September that, despite having a contract in place with an option for Starling's services in 2020, circumstances had changed midway through the season when Starling approached the club and advised that he and his partner were expecting their first child.

"Because he was going to be a first-time father, Josh wanted to have a year off football to concentrate on his family," Mr O'Grady said.

He said the club had agreed to the release on compassionate grounds, though it would be a blow to the Tigers' longer-term plans.

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"He'll certainly add to the pack and we're really pleased to have him on board," Panthers manager Danny Dwyer said this week in confirming the recruitment coup.

"We did table an offer to Josh back in 2018 when he moved to Bathurst, but he decided to go and play with Oberon then; we were always hopeful of potentially signing him at some stage, though, and he'll be here just as a player in 2020.

"We'll be taking it year-by-year after that because it does depend on what [captain-coach] Doug [Hewitt] wants to do long-term; he still has one more year on his contract.

"But depending on what his thought process is it looks as though we'd potentially have another player waiting in the wings, but with his experience Josh will be a huge benefit to Doug next year with what he can bring to the club in terms of coaching too.

"Obviously he's very highly-credentialed as a player and will bring a lot of experience to the side, but he's up to date with everything in the game coaching wise. It just seems like a very good fit for Josh and for the club."

The Oberon Tigers formed a stand-in committee at an extraordinary meeting held last week after the club was unable to form a committee at its AGM for the 2020 season.

The Tigers say the immediate focus is to gauge player commitment and secure a few new major sponsors to bolster the club's resources.