That was the message stressed by Eels captain, flanker Li Ponini, in an interview with the two teams earlier this week.
“Our preparation for this week is going to focus on the basics. Getting our basic work in, because that’s what we really needed,” Ponini said.
“We had a team bonding this week, so hopefully that will help the boys kick into gear this weekend, as it’s do or die.
“We’re trying to focus on discipline. We think that’s the main key, because we need to stop giving away penalties. That’s our game plan, so hopefully we’ll stick with that. And once we have our discipline, we’ll be sweet.”
Coming into the final after a comprehensive win over the Takuvaine Reds, 25-8, player discipline has let them down, even in matches when they have run up the score.
A yellow card was dished out to Eels lock Lui Nicholas, for not retreating 10 metres after a Reds tap and ago, and in their round 10 match against Tupapa, they received three yellows in a match they lost 13-10.
“It all comes down to our discipline I feel. Because that’s really letting us down. In our first game (against Tupapa Panthers) we were taking on the ref rather than our opponents,” Ponini said.
“We weren’t playing the game. So we need to leave the ref alone and let him do his thing. That’s the thing that’s let us down this season, and if we don’t improve it on Saturday it could cost us the game.”
Ponini said that he was “80 per cent” happy with the discipline in the semi-final, echoing with words of coach Clive Nicholas, but he still sees room for basic improvements.
“We’ll just stick to the basics this week, so we’ve been getting in a lot of simple stuff, because that’s really what’s been letting us down. Just simple things like catching the ball, passing, working in groups together, just schoolboy stuff.
“Goal kicking is another thing. We got four (goal kickers), so if one misses, then we’ll swap him out for the next,” Ponini laughed, after the team went through a number of goal kickers in the win against the Reds.
Meanwhile, their opponents are heading into the grand final with the utmost confidence.
“At training this week we’re working on keeping our normal structure and following our normal patterns. We’re not going to change anything, even if we are going into the grand final,” said Rangi Piri, the Panthers’ electric fullback.
“We’re focusing on playing clean but hard. We know that we need to stick to our game structure, our plan that we have going into the game. We don’t want to do anything different. They’re still a tough team to beat, so the win is really for anyone to take.”
The Panthers have yet to taste defeat this season, and will be facing off against the Eels for the fourth time.
Going into the year, some felt this could be a rebuilding year for the Panthers, but young players such as KC Kora, Davey Mato, Othneil Joseph, Jamian Iroa and Piri have shone, despite all being in their early 20s.
Piri puts much of the success down to the bond that the team have, which has cultivated a team-first message.
“Our training and our enjoyment of the game have been most crucial to our success this year. Our communication skills are also something we place a lot of importance on.
“We’re expecting big games from everyone. Everyone makes a difference. It’s not a one-man team, so we’re all looking to make an impact for our team.”