THE first piece of the puzzle is in place for the Griffith Black and Whites with the signing of former NRL star David Milne as captain-coach for next season.
Arguably the most important signing in the club’s recent history, the 27-year-old will return to his roots and lead the effort to drag the six-time premiers out of the Group 20 doldrums.
Milne made more than 50 NRL appearances across a seven-year spell with the Canberra Raiders after leaving Griffith at just 18 years old, carving a reputation for his explosive pace and ability to muscle out of tackles.
He will return to his hometown next month after completing his duties with Queensland Cup side Mackay Cutters, who will take on the Easts Tigers in Sunday’s grand final.
Black and Whites president Steve Parr admits Milne’s signature alone will not serve as a cure-all for the wooden spooners.
“Obviously one player is not going to do it for you, but it’s a start,” he told The Area News.
“He’s a good leader and hopefully he might attract a few of the local guys back.”
The Black and Whites fought off competition from local rivals Yenda and the Waratah Tigers for Milne’s services – but Parr claimed the utility back was only ever going to sign for one club.
“He actually wasn’t going to play for anyone else but he’s a fair dinkum sort of bloke,” he said.
Significantly, Milne will take over the coaching reins from Craig Hannon in 2014 despite initially informing clubs he did not have the time for the added responsibility.
While Milne has never coached before, Parr said he has all the makings of a quality Group 20 mentor.
“He’s had a few good coaches over the last three or four years and he’s picked up a fair bit from that,” he said.
“He’s got the ability and a bit of that knowledge that’s been passed onto him – far more than what a few other guys around here have got.
“But there’ll be a few blokes around the club who can give him a hand if he needs it. We’ll sit down and talk to David when he gets home and see how he wants to structure things, and go from there.”
Milne made his name at the Raiders in the No.1 jersey but is likely to start on the wing for the Cutters on Sunday.
Parr said he could play anywhere from the outside backs to the second row and even lock forward for the Black and Whites.
The president was also hopeful Milne’s contacts could lead to further reinforcements for the struggling club.
“We don’t want to rely on David for that – we want him for his ability and quality. But we’ve got a few other irons in the fire at the moment,” said Parr, who flew to Mackay last week for work reasons but met up with Milne to close the deal.
“All the signs say that yes, we’re on the right track, so we need to look after the guys that we’ve got and increase our playing roster, obviously.
“Now it’s about making sure guys like Gospel Toru, Michael Uin, young William Hannon and those sort of players are all right.”
Parr also confirmed New Zealand import and the club’s leading tryscorer in 2013, Jeko Makatoa, is locked in for next season.