Oberon’s heartbreaking loss in the 2017 Group 10 grand final was less than three weeks ago.
But captain-coach Luke Branighan has wasted little time to ensure the pain of that one-point defeat against Orange CYMS is short-lived.
On top of snaring green and golds fullback Ben McAlpine for the 2018 premier league season, the Tigers have picked up Hills Bulls’ Ron Massey Cup prop Mick Hawkings.
The addition of the veteran bookend is an acquisition Branighan says is on par with the signature of McAlpine, a five-time premiership winner in Group 10, a Dave Scott Medalist and Group 10 player of the year winner.
“I’ve been at a few clubs and played around the world, Mick is as consistent and as tough as any player around,” Branighan said.
“I think Mick’s the one everyone will be talking about next year.”
Branighan, McAlpine and Hawkings played together at both Gateshead Thunder in England and Mount Pritchard, in Sydney’s west.
The trio links for a third time at Oberon in a bid to help the Tigers end what will be a 43-year premiership drought once the 2018 Group 10 season kicks off next April.
The former NRL pivot believes Hawkings and McAlpine will both left the Tigers to a new level come next season.
“I was quite happy with pack this year. I thought they were underrated and aimed up in big games. Mick will help out with the go forward,” Branighan said.
“He’ll do his talking on the field. It’s an area you can never have too much depth.”
He revealed McAlpine was close to signing with Oberon for the season just gone before deciding on another year at CYMS.
“We’re obviously close mates. We strike up a fairly good combination on the field. He take a lot of pressure off me in attack,” Branighan said.
“I just think we’re different players. He’s got that X-factor and brilliance. I’ve got the ability to get a side around the park.
“Played at three other different clubs together, speaks for the relationship we’ve got.”
Oberon will also welcome back Luke Christie-Johnston in 2018, the Tigers product missing the entire season after snapping an Achilles during pre-season.
On top of those additions to this year’s squad, Branighan was hopeful of re-signing all of the club’s 2017 roster, including boom backrow recruit Tui Oloapu.
And the recruitment might not be done with yet either.
Former Newcastle Knights prop Josh Starling has moved to Bathurst and has met with a number of clubs ahead of next season.
Branighan was remaining coy about the Tigers’ chance of picking up the NRL forward.
“I’m sure every club would love a Josh Starling,” he said.