M?bah gives Laffranchi a hero?s welcome
MURWILLUMBAH product Anthony Laffranchi returned home yesterday to become the Gold Coast's first born-and-bred local signing.
The versatile Wests forward has signed a three year deal with the incoming NRL club to start in 2007, the year the Coast joins the national competition.
The bustling prop, a former student at Mt St Patrick College, who played all his junior footy with Murwillumbah Colts, will remain at the Tigers next year before joining Brian Carney, Luke Bailey and Preston Campbell as foundation members of the incoming club.
Laffranchi, 24, said he was honoured to be involved.
Speaking at Murwillumbah's Sunnyside Mall Shopping Centre he told those gathered that the club would be competitive right from the word go.
"To be able to come home to play for the local team is something that I've really only dreamt about until now," Laffranchi said.
"There is something special about playing in front of a home crowd. It's so great to be given the chance to do it."
He said the signing of quality players, like Bailey, showed the club's ambition to be successful.
Gold Coast coach John Cartwright said Laffranchi had been a driving force behind Wests' recent success.
"From our point of view it's a coup to have a player of his professionalism, and the fact that he comes from the Northern Rivers area is a real positive for us," Cartwright said.
"I see him as good in the front row as he is in the back row with good go forward."
Managing director Michael Searle, himself a former Mt St Patrick College student, was yesterday talking up the club's resolve to support football at a grassroots level in the Tweed Valley.
"Murwillumbah and the Northern Rivers is a key catchment area for rugby league and our team, and we will have a strong presence in this area to ensure the sport grows," Searle said.
"Today heralds the start of our commitment to the Northern Rivers that you will be well supported by the local NRL franchise."