Last year it was Tupapa Panthers who entered the showdown against Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles as the top favourites after winning the 2018 minor premiership. The Panthers eventually won the title, 26-24.
But in the Raro Cars Rugby League Competition 2019 premier final this afternoon at the National Stadium, it is the Sea Eagles who are the favourites.
The side from Muri won the minor premiership and is a match away from creating a major history – becoming the first team to finish the competition without a loss.
“It’s been really hard so far and but we show up to training, we do the hard yards and it’s no wonder where we are today … that’s why we are the number one team (so far),” Sea Eagles skipper Daniel Toa said.
“We got the good vibes down at the field during training and everyone is in high Spirit. This is our final game and we can’t wait to get on the field.”
The Sea Eagles have superseded everyone’s expectations this season. They are consistent, superb with their brand of league and most importantly, unbeaten in the competition.
The winning streak itself is a morale booster for the side and Toa hopes their unbeaten run will inspire them to finish the competition on a high.
The Sea Eagles have also beaten the Panthers all three times they have met this season.
“Well the boys are not taking the Panthers lightly despite having the upper hand in the last three matches. We know they will be coming in strong in this match and we need to be prepared for that,” Toa said.
“We take a game at a time, we don’t look too far ahead. We trust in our structure to put on the points and that’s what we will be relying on in the final.”
Panthers coach Darren Piri said the players were looking forward to turn the tables around in their fourth meeting this afternoon.
“It’s all about who wants to win more, and who has more confidence heading into the final,” Piri said.
“Obviously as a team they might come in with a bit more confidence but I think at the end of the day, it comes down to individual players. It comes down to how mentally and physically ready they are for big matches like the final.”
Piri said the focus during this week’s training has been the basics of the game.
“It’s all about getting back to the basics and making sure we do that right. The players are certainly looking forward to the final and putting on a great show.”
Both teams are calling on their fans and rugby league followers to come out in numbers to witness a titanic battle for the title.
The finals start with the U9/11 grade. The premier showdown will kick off at 4pm.
10.40pm U9/11 Tupapa Panthers-Avatiu Eels (Half field), U9/11 Nga/Mat Sea Eagles-Arorangi Bears (Half field); 11.30am U13 Tupapa Panthers-Arorangi Bears, 12.40pm U16
Tupapa Panthers-Arorangi Bears; 2pm U19 Avatiu Eels-Arorangi Bears; 3.40pm Two Teams Assemble followed by National Anthem, 4pm Premier Nga/Mat Sea Eagles-Tupapa Panthers, Prize Giving