Crunch battles in league openers

Saturday February 04, 2017 Written by Published in League
Ngatangiia/Matavera Sea Eagles and Arorangi Bears will today feature in the opening round of the league season against Panthers and Warriors. 17020341 Ngatangiia/Matavera Sea Eagles and Arorangi Bears will today feature in the opening round of the league season against Panthers and Warriors. 17020341

TUPAPA Panthers are bracing for a tough start to their 2017 rugby league season when they take on Ngatangiia/Matavera Sea Eagles in the feature match of round one at Nukupure Park today.

The Sea Eagles, which finished second in the 2016 competition as well the 2017 Nines tournament, is much favoured in the match that will kick off at 5pm.

But the Panthers are keen to get their season off to a good start with a win away from home.

Coach Darren Piri admits it will be an uphill battle against an in-form Sea Eagles who seem determined to finally get the monkey off their back this season.

He said anything could happen in the early stage of the weekly competition.

“This is our first match of the season and anything can happen. We have prepared well and we know the Sea Eagles have been preparing well for this match as well,” Piri said.

“We just want to go out there and do our best and enjoy the game.”

Panthers will miss the services of two of their backline players.

Speedsters Eddie Marama and John Marsters have joined the Takuvaine Warriors for the 2017 season.

However, Piri said they still have the depth in the team to fill the void left by the duo.

He said they would have services of the two Fijian players, who have been with them for a while, and the remaining members in the squad were local players.

“We started off with our full training about a week-and-a-half ago. While a win would be an ideal start to the season for us, we are realistic about our chances and looking forward to this match.”

The Sea Eagles are unlikely to have the services of their import players and will be relying on the local talent to guide them through in the opener at home.

In the other premier clash today at Raemaru Park, a new-look Warriors will be gunning for a win against the host Arorangi Bears at 5pm. Warriors president Sid Toa said the morale in the team was high and the players were excited about this season.

“We are a close-knit group and have been training since December last year. The team has a strength of 300 warriors,” Toa said.

“We will have three Fijian players in Waisiki, Tevita, who played for the Bulls last year, and Joshua in the forwards while Marama, John Masters and Viiga Ruepena will lead the backline.”

Toa said some of their players have returned to the team to bolster their campaign this year.

“We are hoping to register our first win and we are encouraging all our supporters to come out in numbers and support us in this crucial match.”

Meanwhile Warriors will also field a reserve, Under-17 and U13 team in this year’s competition. Toa is calling on players interested in playing for their feeder teams, adding the training will be held on Tuesday.

Fixtures: Titikaveka: Reserves 3pm Titikaveka-Avatiu (Referee: Nga Takaiti, Touch judges: club reps); Arorangi: Premiers 5pm Arorangi-Takuvaine (Referee: Poso Ngaroi, Touch Judges: June Henry, Willie Taripo, bench official: John Whitta);

Ngatangiia: Premiers 5pm Ngatangiia-Tupapa (Referee: Tua Manea, Touch Judges: Dawn Crummer, George Brown, Bench officials: Kora Kora, Bishop Bishop); Reserves 3:30pm Ngatangiia-Tupapa (Referee: Kora Kora, Touch judges: Dawn Crummer, George Brown); Under 19s Avatiu-Tupapa (Referee: June Henry, Touch Judges: Tua Manea, Poso Ngaroi).

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