Oberon minus captain-coach for six weeks after hand surgery

Oberon’s quest to snap a 42-year Group 10 premier league title drought has taken a serious hit with captain-coach Luke Branighan ruled out for the next six weeks.

BACK TO WADE: Matt Ballinger is set to be shifted from fullback to the wing ahead of Sunday's clash with Hawks at Wade Park. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

BACK TO WADE: Matt Ballinger is set to be shifted from fullback to the wing ahead of Sunday's clash with Hawks at Wade Park. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

Branighan busted his hand in the Tigers’ last start 28-6 loss to Bathurst Panthers, his left hand ballooning after the clash.

Scans revealed the former NRL half fractured his left thumb, with the bone displacing itself from the joint, resulting in surgery on Wednesday.

The loss of the Tigers most experienced player coupled with the club’s on-going hoodoo on the road looks likely to translate into a tough second round for Oberon.

But it’s one Branighan is still confident the Tigers can emerge from with a handy position in the Group 10 top five.

“It’s certainly not ideal, but as I’ve said all along there’s plenty of quality in this side. There’s no excuses for us at this point,” Branighan said ahead of his side’s trip to Wade Park to take on Hawks.

“It’s a massive game for us, against Hawks. Any side that’s leading Panthers with 20 (minutes) to go is a more than handy side.”

Branighan has named the experienced Anton Wareta and Blake Miller in the halves for the Hawks clash.

He believes the new halves pairing will complement each other well, with Wareta’s game management skills and Miller’s explosive running game to guide the Tigers around the park.

“He’ll certainly add some spark to the side,” Branighan said of Miller.

“I’ve always had Millsy pegged as a half, but a few injuries have meant we’ve had to move him around a touch. He’ll get an extended stay in the halves now.”

The Tigers haven’t won an away game this season, while the club’s travelling form throughout 2016 wasn’t the best either.

As it stands, Oberon hasn’t won on its last six road trips – losing to both the battling St Pat’s and undefeated Orange CYMS away form home so far in 2017.

“Until we manage to break through for that win away from home, questions are going to continue to be asked,” Branighan added.

Oberon travels to Wade Park on Sunday for a 2pm premier league kick-off.