TAKING the same road as several other Group Nine luminaries, star playmaker Luke Branighan has signed on to lead powerful Queaneyan Blues next year.
Barely a month after Cootamundra lost Luke Berkery and Shannon Rupepare to Blues, Branighan also inked a contract with the club on Sunday.
Branighan’s departure from Group Nine follows the end of his four-year stint as Young captain-coach,
Recruited from Sydney in 2012, Branighan had four marvellous seasons with the Cherrypickers before calling time on his successful stay.
During his tenure at Young, Branighan was consistently rated as one of the most influential players in Group Nine and was a regular member of the Team of the Year.
Now set to be the key player in the plans of coach Simon Woolford at Queanbean Blues in 2016, Branighan revealed he is “very excited” at the chance.
“They (Blues) are one of the powerhouse teams in bush football,” Branighan said.
“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to play under a terrific coach in a really strong side.”
Branighan is adamant the prospect of Woolford’s team being a frontline contender for the Canberra domestic premiership next year was an overwhelming incentive to head to Queanbeyan.
“Obviously I’d love to win a premiership,” he said.
“Joining a new club, a very strong club, is a challenge I’m really excited about.”
At 34, Branighan will take a world of experience to the Blues, including a decade in the NRL and at English clubs.
The signing of Branighan is a perfect complement for the Blues outstanding depth in the forwards, notably lifted by the acquisition of Berkery.
“They’ll have a great pack next year,” Branighan said.
“I’ll be good to play behind them.”
Despite shifting football bases, Branighan will continue to live in Young and maintain his role with the NRL development system in the Riverina.
The dynamic halfback was inundated with coaching offers from within Group Nine and other regions.
He has not completely ruled out returning to coaching in the future, but will be fully committed to the Blues cause in 2016.
“I had plenty of clubs talking to me, but I’m more than happy with my decision,” he said.
With Branighan gone, Englishman Neil Thorman has stepped in as Young captain-coach, but the Cherrypickers are yet to make any major recruitment announcements.
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