OUTGOING Young captain-coach Luke Branighan got the farewell he deserved as the Cherrypickers hammered Junee at Alfred Oval on Saturday.
After four years in charge at Young, Branighan has been replaced as captain-coach by English hooker Neil Thorman for 2016.
And to mark his last game at Young’s home ground, Branighan turned on a blinder to spearhead the Cherrypickers to a comprehensive 42-12 victory over Junee.
Up only 18-12 at half-time, Young rattled off five tries in the second half to leave the Diesels stranded.
For Young, the overwhelming success was enough to keep their finals fire burning for at least 24 hours, with the team’s ultimate fate hinging on how Albury fares against Gundagai at Greenfield Park on Sunday.
Remaining optimistic, Branighan said he would become a Tigers fan for the day.
“Obviously we all want them (Gundagai) to do the right thing,” Branighan said.
“It might all come down to for and against.”
With Young short on troops following the late withdrawal of Nick Hall, Carl Planicka and Jayke Hogan, Branighan said the performance to overthrow second-place Junee ranked high on his list.
“Junee had a few out too, but this was a pretty special,” Branighan said.
“Matt Wakefield was outstanding for us, but so were Aaron Slater, Luke Williams and Kyle Richens.
“I couldn’t fault anyone.”
Virtually on one leg because of a calf muscle injury, Branighan was at his inspirational best on Saturday, controlling the attack to the utmost degree.
Likewise gun import Tui Samoa also continued his sparkling form by scoring three tries to celebrate his re-signing with Young for next year.
In the end, however, the victory belonged to Branighan.
“It was a great way to finish up (at Alfred Oval),” he said.
“I had four great years.”
With his tenure ended at Young, Branighan is now fielding offers from a swath of clubs, with his future expected to be settled in several weeks.
Young certainly repaid Branighan for his magnificent service by producing a superb display against a quality team.
Despite the 30-point loss, Junee retained second place on the ladder, but now faces a test of character against Southcity in a qualifying final at Laurie Daley Oval next Sunday.
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