HARPOONING the circling sharks, Orange CYMS have locked away reigning Group 10 Player of the Year Ben McAlpine for the next two seasons.
The green and golds re-signed the Country Firsts, Western Division and Group 10 star last week, putting to bed any potential move to both interested Group 10 rivals and the cashed-up, high profile Newcastle clubs.
Captain-coach Mick Sullivan said securing the services of arguably the best player outside of country rugby league strong holds Illawarra and Newcastle was off-season priority number one for the club.
“He’s definitely one of the guys we wanted to lock up. Macca is a sought after commodity,” Sullivan said.
“He’s a country first representative and there’s clubs that hear about these guys and definitely try and sign them up.
“We wanted to put pen to paper with Macca as soon as possible.”
Sullivan said he had heard of a few Group 10 clubs interested in signing McAlpine, while the Dave Scott Medallist has strong links to good friend and former teammate Luke Branighan at Group Nine club Young Cherrypickers.
A number of high rolling Newcastle clubs were also rumoured to be circling the classy pivot.
But CYMS nabbed their man first.
Currently on a tour of South Africa with Country Firsts, McAlpine’s time away will be of huge benefit to both himself and CYMS.
“I think playing with those calibre players will be huge for Ben,” Sullivan said, with their first clash on Saturday against a South African Rugby League Combined Clubs outfit at Silverton, Pretoria.
“And just a different coaching perspective. Dave Barnhill, there might be a few little things he picks up that I might miss and a few drills Macca might be able to bring back.”
Admitting the enormity of leading the club to three Group 10 premierships in four years had finally sunk in, Sullivan said the key to improving that record was keeping everyone keen.
Adding a few new players to that list might do just that.
Frenchman Romaric Bemba and Brent Colley are in talks about another year in Orange in 2014, but backrower Brett Sargent has definitely retired after tearing his hamstring in the grand final win over Hawks.
Sullivan was hopeful of coaxing prop Des Knight to go around for another year to help guide the club’s young players.
After a World Cup with Papua New Guinea, Larson Marabe may also be a chance of returning to CYMS after last playing in green and gold in 2012.
Sullivan said adding fresh faces to the roster to compliment the young talent was crucial to maintaining motivation.
“Those players that haven’t had success, it keeps the place fresh,” he added.