Brien, Fitzpatrick, Lefaoseu add to St Pat's staggering Group 10 off-season recruitment coup

HUGE COUP: Just hours after Jackson Brien's signing was announced, Bathurst St Pat's confirmed the recruitment of Blake Fitzpatrick (pictured) and Abel Lefaoseu from Oberon too. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN
HUGE COUP: Just hours after Jackson Brien's signing was announced, Bathurst St Pat's confirmed the recruitment of Blake Fitzpatrick (pictured) and Abel Lefaoseu from Oberon too. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN

Just hours after officially announcing the signing of boom recruit Jackson Brien, Bathurst St Pat's followed it up by confirming they've also landed the services of fellow former Tigers Blake Fitzpatrick and Abel Lefaoseu for the 2020 season.

Brien's signing was confirmed on Thursday morning and while rumours were circulating of Fitzpatrick and Lefaoseu's recruitment too the latter pair didn't put pen to paper until later that afternoon, signalling a huge day for the Saints.

Along with Lee McClintlock's signing earlier this month the Bathurst side, who finished eighth and seriously battled in 2019, already look like they'll put together one of Group 10 premier league's most-fearsome backlines next year.

The trio land at St Pat's following Oberon's much-publicised, off-season battles, with countless clubs circling the Tigers' stars after the club was forced to withdraw from the top flight and nominate for the second division New Era Cup.

MARQUEE MAN: Former Oberon and Western gun headlines St Pat's staggering haul of excellent off-season recruits. Photo: ALEXANDER GRANT

MARQUEE MAN: Former Oberon and Western gun headlines St Pat's staggering haul of excellent off-season recruits. Photo: ALEXANDER GRANT

Bathurst Panthers struck first by signing outgoing Oberon captain-coach Josh Starling, before the Saints plundered the beleaguered Tigers' ranks to pull off a recruitment coup of staggering proportions.

Naturally, they're on cloud nine too, especially after signing Luke Single too.

"This [will] probably (be) as good a backline as you're going to see in Country Rugby League, but it's still unproven at this stage," St Pat's president Graham Ward said, Brien actually signing with the club on Wednesday afternoon.

Brien actually signed for the club on Wednesday afternoon and is widely regarded as Western's premier fullback, although it remains to be seen where he'll play for the Saints.

In fact until new captain-coach Zac Merritt names his side for trials, or even round one, it remains to be seen where any of the three star recruits will play.

Lefaoseu arrived at Oberon as a prop but has since become of the best centres in the are while Fitzpatrick, who is returning to his junior club, played fullback at the Tigers before moving to lock in recent years.

"[Brien is] a class above. He's been such a loyal player for Oberon and he's a Western Rams representative," Ward said.

"We need outside backs. It's probably one of the areas where we lacked a bit [in 2019]

"With Lee McClintock and Caleb Wardman we've got a lot of options there, and they're all happy to see what works with the team. I think Jackson prefers centre but he can play fullback.

"Blake's capable of playing halves, back row, hooker, anywhere. Abel told me he came to Oberon as a front rower and then played in the centres for most of his time. He's an option in those spots as well."

'Location was a big thing' for the trio in terms of coming to a decision, Ward said, as was Merritt being in charge.

"It's only half an hour away, and we've adopted the rule this year that if you can't train then you can't play. We've had travellers for the last few years and it makes it hard on the local guys when those travelling players aren't turning up to training," Ward explained.

"Zac Merritt as a captain coach was a big attraction for them. They all realise what a great, solid player he is and as a coach we're hopeful he'll be the same. He's highly respected on and off the field."

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