Oberon signing Josh Starling says his arrival in Group 10 ahead of the 2018 season is as much about giving back to rugby league as it is about helping the Tigers end the competition’s longest premiership drought.
Unless someone pulls a seriously big rabbit out of the hat in the lead-up to next April’s season kick-off, Starling will be the biggest name to land in Western’s eastern competition next winter.
The no-nonsense prop played 13 of his 80 career NRL games with Newcastle this season, but has relocated to Bathurst alongside his partner Allira Simpson.
Oberon confirmed Starling’s signature last week, the club adding the former South Sydney, Manly and Knights prop to what is already a formidable roster as the Tigers look to snap what will be a 43-year title drought come 2018.
The 27-year-old said the lure of being part of history with the Tigers helped the black and golds land this off-season’s biggest fish.
But, for the club, the addition of Starling will pay more than just dividends on the field.
Starling is keen to help the club wherever possible – his desire to give back instilled by both his parents growing up.
“I hope so ... I’d love to give back to a game that’s give me so much.,” Starling said.
“I’ve had plenty of good coaches, and they instill that work ethic. My parents too. They taught me it’s important to give back.
“Not everyone is as lucky as I’ve been growing up.”
Starling said Oberon was one of the first clubs to talk to him after Newcastle announced he wouldn’t be retained for 2018 and his move to Bathurst was confirmed.
The 115 kilogram Helensburgh Tigers junior from Woonona on the state’s south coast is looking forward to the chance to play bush footy – an area of the game he says is quickly being forgotten by the game’s big wigs.
“They’ve lost touch with grassroots of the game,” Starling said.
“They think if one kids leave, more will arrive, but if they don’t do something now they won’t have another Cameron Smith or Greg Inglis.
“They’ll be picked up by AFL, because they’ve seen a change and they’re prepared to pump money into these regions.”
Starling said he was keen to get stuck into things with Oberon – snapping a four-decade long title drought high on the priority list.
“Then they spoke about the story of the club and how good it would be to win a premiership given it’s been 43 years. I’d love to be part of it,” Starling said.
“I think it’s going to be more physical. Not as quick as what I’m used to, but the physicality … there’s always someone prepared to go toe-to-toe with a front-rower, I’m looking forward to it.”