The Young Cherrypickers are slowly clenching back some town pride this week after taking home another win on Saturday against the Wagga Kangaroos at the Equex Centre.
Young’s captain-coach Luke Branighan and his right hand man five-eighth Ben McAlpine put in a stellar performance to help the Cherrypickers steal a 40-10 victory in a Group Nine showdown.
But despite raving reviews about Young’s landslide win over the Kangaroos it is going to take a lot more than three on the trots wins to convince their former NRL playmaker they have what it takes to end a 20 year premiership drought.
“It was a solid performance, but we still have so much to offer,” Luke Branighan said.
Spending most of the 80 minute game locked by each other’s side, McAlpine and Branighan shut down Wagga’s attack and gave them little room to move.
“I think we need to work on our concentration – we are not putting in a full 80 minute performance,” Branighan said.
McAlpine scored two of Young’s tries and had a hand in two others to illustrate exactly why he is tagged the best player in country rugby league.
While Branighan himself didn’t cross the line to rack up some points for Young, he did feature in the critical lead-up to four tries.
Young’s on field performance was far from ideal with forwards Nic Langford and Blake Hewitt sent for 10 minutes in the bin with one of the Kangaroo players.
An altercation with Branighan a few minutes later left another Kangaroos player binned.
There’s no denying Young have had a fairytale run for the last three weeks and club president Steve Woolford is stoked at what they have achieved.
“Oh look we have won three from three we couldn’t be happier – but there is still a long way to go,” he said.
Woolford is happy to point out that the team line-up hasn’t changed much.
“We are wrapped with Luke at the moment – he is doing everything we would want and we hoped for – the biggest difference is he is a play maker and adds the direction we need – but the nucleus of our team hasn’t changed much.”
Over the past three weeks Young have identified their defence line as in need of some work – finally that is showing some improvement according to Branighan.
“We played some good attacking football and I would say we were treated pretty harshly but that’s the nature of the game,” Branighan said.
“It’s getting better – but still lots to do,” he said.
Despite his dream run to his debut season with the Cherrypickers Branighan isn’t ready to glitter his side with praise.
“I think I stay level headed for the boys – we can’t get ahead of ourselves, we are yet to play sides like Albury and South City,” he said.
And as for the reports that Young have the “grand final look” – both Branighan and Woolford fob that off too.
“I think it’s pretty ridiculous actually – a competition isn’t based on three games, we haven’t even gone close to playing a full 80 minutes of football.”
“We are still making stupid errors and if we want to win the comp we need to stop that – and Young hasn’t even made the semis in six years,” he said.
“The grand-final is the furthest thing from our thoughts, we take a week by week approach and we need to keep winning if we want to show at the end of the year – September is a long way off,” Woolford said.
But it wasn’t just the dynamic duo of Branighan and McAlpine that had the crowd roaring.
Simon Sneddon and Nick Hall added to the momentum by continually crashing forward with relentless power and authority.
“Look there is a good feel at the club - but there is still a lot of work to do,” Branighan added.
That glowing feeling is something Woolford can also back.
“There is a good vibe about the club and we are happy with where we are at – our league tag girls are playing well despite getting beat,” he said.