Incoming St Pat’s coach Luke Branighan has wasted little time in shoring up his club’s front-row stocks, luring ex-Oberon teammate Mickey Hawkings to Bathurst ahead of the 2019 season.
Hawkings will turn 43 next Group 10 season and will line-up in blue and white as the oldest player in the top grade, but Branighan is confident the addition of the former Oberon and Hills District Bulls hardman is exactly what St Pat’s needs in its bid to climb back up the competition ladder.
Hawkings will help form a powerful and experienced prop rotation at Jack Arrow Oval next season, linking with Zac Merritt and last season’s coach Greg Behan up front.
“St Pat’s have already got some good front-rowers but a little depth in the front-row won’t hurt,” Branighan said.
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“Mick was our best forward this year at Oberon and he’s been an accomplished player for a while.
“He ticks all the boxes, besides being super tough and consistent. He’s great for the club, he’s a well-liked player and most importantly he’s low maintenance.
“His fitness level is amazing. He’s a tough human being.”
Branighan praised the club’s 2018 mentor Behan, who’ll prove a key figure in the Bathurst club’s bid for a place in the finals in 2019 after agreeing to continue on in blue and white.
“He’s been fantastic. His maturity levels, I already knew he was a good bloke but the way he’s handled himself through everything, I’ve got a lot time for Greg,” Branighan added.
“He wants to be part of something good at the club. He told me he wants to learn from an older coach and take that on board.”
His fitness level is amazing. He’s a tough human being.St Pat's coach Luke Branighan on new signing Mickey Hawkings.
St Pat’s sat on top of the Group 10 ladder after three rounds of the 2018 season but crumbled under the weight of a growing injury crisis to eventually miss the finals by seven points, winning just two of their next 11 clashes.
As a result, on top of the Hawkings signing, Branighan says he’ll continue to look to build the club’s depth.
“I’ll be looking for a few more but it’s already a strong squad. Most of the locals are tied up. I’m looking at a few spots but I owulnd’t have signed at the club if I didn’t think they could compete with the top clubs.”
Branighan believes gun fullback Sammy Dwyer will likely link with home club Parkes, but his signature hasn’t been confirmed by the Group 11 club as yet.
Regardless, the former NRL half is confident St Pat’s can push for a title in the two years he’s signed on to coach the club.
“This could possibly be one of last contracts. Wherever I go like to succeed and if I didn’t think we could win here I wouldn’t be at the club,” Branighan said.
“They’re a better side than where they finished last year. I just wanted to add to a few spots depth-wise.”