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Nicholas focus on big game

Monday May 22, 2017 Written by Published in League
Tupapa Panthers coach Darren Piri giving a pep talk to his players at the halftime break against the Bears last week. Panthers will play the Eels for a place in next week’s premier final, today. 17051944 Tupapa Panthers coach Darren Piri giving a pep talk to his players at the halftime break against the Bears last week. Panthers will play the Eels for a place in next week’s premier final, today. 17051944

It has been an eventful week for Avatiu Nikao Eels coach Albert Nicholas.

 

On Wednesday, he retained his RAPPA seat under the Cook Islands Party banner following an overwhelming win in a by-election.

With that mission complete, Nicholas has now turned his focus on ending the week on a high, guiding the Eels to another domestic league competition final.

The reigning champions Eels will take on Tupapa Panthers in the premier semifinal today at the BCI Stadium for a place in the showdown against the Titikaveka Bulldogs.

“This (game) is just as important as the by-election for me. This game is important for the club and our supporters who have been backing us over the years,” Nicholas said.

“The pressure is surely on the team, but we will take that on and hope we come away with a win.”

Panthers made it into the semis after beating Arorangi Cowboys 22-17 last week.

Eels, which finished the preliminary rounds on top, lost to the Bulldogs 12-13 in last week’s clash for a direct entry to the final.

Realistically, the pressure will be more on the Eels than the Panthers for two particular reasons.

Eels being the defending champions would want to retain their title and give Nicholas, who is set to step down as the coach of the club at the end of this season, a perfect farewell.

But Panthers coach Darren Piri says they are also feeling similar heat heading into the do-or-die clash.

“The pressure will be on both teams. It’s not about one team feeling a bit more pressured than the other. Both teams will be out there trying to make it through to the final,” Piri said.

“We were relieved with the win last week and all the players need is the motivation to fight on. I can’t do much now, the onus is on them to turn up on the day and put on their best performance.”

Eels and the Panthers met twice in the 2017 season with the latter winning the first encounter at home while the former claiming the second one.

Today’s match will also serve as the decider between the teams.

“This is finals footy and whatever happened earlier in the season is not relevant to this game,” Nicholas said. “This game is about the team which wants more and has the will to take it.”

Taking opportunities and making them count is one of the lessons the Eels had to learn the hard way in last week’s loss.

Nicholas wants to maximise on the opportunities the team creates in today’s match to remain in the title chase.

“It was the drop goal that proved the difference last week and it showed every opportunity is important and can make a difference to the end result.”

“To our supporters and loyal fans, we want them to come and support us in this crucial match.

“They could be the difference that we need in this match.”

            - Rashneel Kumar

Fixtures

12pm Under 11s Avatiu Nikao Eel-Ngatangiia/Matavera Sea Eagles (Refs: Jeff Murray and Teokotai Tuaivi (Billy)), U11s Tupapa Panthers-Arorangi Bears, 12.45pm U13s Eagles-Eels (Ref: William Taripo), 1.30pm Under 19s Panthers-Bears (Ref: Tua Manea, Touch: Paul Allsworth/William Taripo), 3pm Reserves Eagles-Panthers (Ref: Nga Takaiti, Touch: Kora Kora/Arthur Emile), 4.30pm Premiers Eels-Panthers (Ref: June Henry, Touch: Poso Ngaroi/Pete Robertson, Bench officials: Pius Mitchell/Tua Manea).