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Lady Panthers ready for Bulldogs battle

Saturday 10 February 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Rugby league, Sports

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Lady Panthers ready for Bulldogs battle
Tupapa Maraerenga Rugby League Club held a feed day to attract new members/players, which was successful in terms of team bonding but unsuccessful in recruiting new players. TUPAPA PANTHERS/24020923

Lady Panthers are keen to get back on the paddock after a disappointing Nines tournament earlier this year, but they are excited to field a team in the 2024 Cook Islands Rugby League 13s competition.

Lady Panthers will take on Lady Bulldogs in the opening women’s match of the season at Victoria Park in Tupapa at 4.15pm.

The women’s match will be followed by the replay of the 2023 premier men’s final between defending champions Arorangi Bears and Tupapa Panthers at 5pm.

Lady Panthers coach Koa Kopu says they have been struggling with numbers due to various reasons, including players moving overseas, focusing on other sports, or dealing with injuries.

This year, Tupapa Maraerenga Rugby League Club held a feed day to attract new members/players, which was successful in terms of team bonding but unsuccessful in recruiting new players.

“Again, we seem to be begging, asking, and looking for new players,” says Kopu.

Luckily, a few new players joined this week, requiring them to go back to basics. However, Kopu is thrilled to be able to field a team for Saturday’s game.

They have a couple of experienced players, June Willie and Kiana Sword Tua, who recently represented Cook Islands at the Pacific Games last year. Rima Browne, a 7s and touch player, will be leading the team alongside Sword Tua. Touch players Julieanne (Julz) Westrupp and her daughter Tashi will also strengthen the Lady Panthers this season, according to Kopu.

Mii Piri Savage, a newcomer with a soccer background but no rugby experience, born and bred in the village, is a player to watch out for today, says Kopu.

His focus this year is on ensuring the technical side of the game is coached well to minimise injuries.

“Development is a priority as well to ensure our ladies can reap opportunities when and if it arises.”

Kopu welcomes the Lady Bulldogs to Victoria Park this Saturday and wishes them well in the game and the rest of the season.

He also thanked Cook Islands Rugby League (CIRL) for their continued support of women’s rugby league in and for considering a shorter game time (20 minutes per half).

He welcomes any ladies interested in playing rugby league who don’t belong to a club to join the Lady Panthers in Tupapa Maraerenga.

Training is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5pm. Kopu wished all the clubs and grades the best of luck for the season.

Fixtures

Today at Victoria Park – 12pm Junior Development (six years to 12 years old), 2.15pm U14 Panthers vs Sea Eagles, 3.15pm U16 Panthers vs Bears, 4.15pm Women’s Panthers vs Bulldogs, 5pm Premier Panthers vs Bears.