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League gears up for historic clashes

Saturday 15 June 2024 | Written by Solomone Taukei | Published in League, Sports

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League gears up for historic clashes
Former Cook Islands sprinter Patricia Taea, with the ball, trains with the Country Maroons women’s side. CIRL/24061446

The rugby league enthusiasts in Rarotonga are eagerly awaiting the first-ever clash between the Country Maroons and the Town Blues today.

Organised by the Cook Islands Rugby League, this competition mirrors the famous Australian State of Origin and promises to deliver high-energy action at Nukupure Park.

The women’s match is set to kick off at 2.15pm, followed by the men’s match at 3.30pm. This event is expected to draw a large crowd, uniting fans in their love for rugby league.

The intensity and expectations for this match are sky-high. Both teams boast strategic and well-known coaches who have been pivotal in local rugby.

Clive Nicholas from Avatiu who join forces with Darren Piri from Tupapa to lead the Town Blues, while the Country Maroons will be under the expert guidance of the magnificent Dion Nepia, assisted by coach and player Bobby Hansen.

Country Maroons coach Nepia emphasises the unique strengths his squad brings to the field.

“We have a good balance of youth and experience, which I think is a big strength,” Nepia states.

He believes this blend is their greatest asset, noting, “The young guys’ energy and enthusiasm give the older boys a boost, and the older boys keep the young ones level-headed.”

Nepia highlights key leaders such as Bobby Hansen, Rob Heather, and Usaia Sivo, saying they play pivotal roles in maintaining balance.

“Their leadership provides guidance and control, allowing the young, energetic players to express their skill sets.”

This approach ensures that dynamic talents like halfback William Rani, fullback Brian Akava, centre Kaleb Chase, and the powerful second-rower Bwatitoa Teiora can shine.

Nepia also emphasises the importance of building strong combinations and understanding each player’s role within the team.

“It’s more about building combinations and finding where your place is in the team regarding your role in this first game,” he explains.

Nepia encourages his players to be confident and seize opportunities, highlighting the significance of teamwork and individual responsibility.

“Be confident and have a go.”

Town Blues co-coach Clive Nicholas is optimistic yet cautious as he prepares for the upcoming game.

“Our strengths will really be in our backs, with all the speed and skill they possess,” he noted.

“For myself and co-coach Darren Piri to have the two grand final clubs combine for the pride of Town is a wonderful thing to be part of, but at the same time, we can’t be complacent with the talent we have.”

Nicholas acknowledges the formidable challenge posed by the Country Maroons, saying, “Country has two good coaches and a lot of local talent, boosted by their Fijian brothers from across all three country clubs, so we are wary of that.”

He also mentioned the importance of the match for future selections, adding, “There is a residence squad that will be picked from this, but we’ll also be keeping a close eye on their performances.”