Young signs Luke Branighan

GONE: Temora captain-coach Chris Bamford has split with the Dragons, taking up a post with Group 20 club Yanco-Wamoon for next season. Picture: Michael Frogley
GONE: Temora captain-coach Chris Bamford has split with the Dragons, taking up a post with Group 20 club Yanco-Wamoon for next season. Picture: Michael Frogley

YOUNG president Steve Woolford yesterday declared the signing of former NRL playmaker Luke Branighan was the start of a Cherrypickers revival.

Hoping to rebuild after the dramas of the past season, Woolford said the recruitment of the ex-St George Illawarra and Cronulla halfback was a step along the road to redemption for Young.

"It's a positive end to what has been a disappointing year for us," he said. "As a club we needed to sign someone as quickly as possible just to get the confidence back in the playing group.

"We had players looking to go elsewhere, so we're definitely hoping this will get the interest going again."

In snaring Branighan, the Group Nine battlers have moved quickly to slam the door on the exit of controversial captain-coach Brent Crisp who was sacked in August after two seasons on the job.

Fresh from a Bundaberg Cup grand final with Sydney club Mounties, 30-year-old Branighan clinched the deal with Young on Friday before attending the club's presentation night.

Woolford said the main attraction to Branighan is the wealth of experience he will bring to the club in the important rebuilding phase.

"The biggest thing for us is his experience," Woolford admitted. "He's played with St George and Cronulla, he's been over to play in England with Halifax and he's that little bit older.

"He hasn't coached before, but that's not something we're very concerned about. With all of the experience and the coaches he has played for we're confident in his ability. He comes with a sense of maturity and that's what we need.

"We're looking forward to next season now."

With Branighan's contract in concrete for next season, the Cherrypickers are looking to secure some fresh talent to bolster the playing roster.

Although Woolford would not reveal names of players targeted by Cherrypickers, it is believed Branighan will entice former Mounties teammates to the club.

"In the next couple of weeks we'll be talking to a few players, but we need to move quickly," Woolford said. "It's very early at this stage but the later you leave it the more likely you are to miss out. It's a difficult process but we're trying to get it done as quickly as possible."

With Branighan confirmed at Young, only four Group Nine clubs are left to finalise coaches for 2012. New Zealander Chris Bamford has split with Temora to coach Yanco-Wamoon, leaving the Dragons to find a replacement. The coaching landscape at Tumut, Cootamundra and Tumbarumba is also uncertain, with the status quo from 2011 a strong option. Matt Richards and Scott Naughton are favoured to stay in charge at Tumut, while Grant Boyd and Aaron Byrne have the inside running for a second season at Cootamundra.

After making a fine impression with Tumbarumba this year, Mike Talaepa is also favoured to be retained for 2012.

Temora president Alan Rands revealed yesterday the Dragons had "good feelers" out for a new coach, with a decision possible within three weeks.