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League’s derby day double header

Saturday 24 February 2024 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Rugby league, Sports


League’s derby day double header
Avatiu Nikao Eels defeated Arorangi Bears 30-8 at Aretere Park last week. The Eels will play Tupapa Panthers while the Bears will take on Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles at Raemaru Park this afternoon. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/24021809

Arorangi’s Raemaru Park will be a hive of activity this afternoon when it hosts the Cook Islands Rugby League 13s competition’s first double header.

The week three competition will see two derby matches between town and country arch rivals in the premier men’s division.

At 3.30pm, neighbouring giants Tupapa Panthers will take on Avatiu Nikao Eels, followed by country brothers Arorangi Bears hosting Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles at 5pm.

In the women’s competition, Lady Bears will take on Lady Panthers. The Bears were tied 4-4 in their last week’s match against Lady Bulldogs, while the Panthers had a default win over the Bulldogs in week one.

In the premier men’s competition, defending champions Bears will be going all out for a win after two consecutive losses against the Panthers (8-34) and the Eels (8-30).

The Sea Eagles will not be an easy battle, especially after their strong start in week one, beating Titikaveka Bulldogs 44-16. The Bulldogs, who are on a bye this week, bounced back last week to stun the Panthers 38-30 at Aretere Park in Avatiu.

A win for the Bears will give them some hope of turning their season around, while the Sea Eagles will be looking to build on their winning start to take the pole position in the competition points table.

The feature match of the week is undoubtedly between the two giants, the Panthers versus the Eels.

After their loss to the Bulldogs last week, Panthers coach Darren Piri will be eyeing a comeback to get their season back on track.

“It was a wakeup call,” said Piri of last week’s loss. “Every match is a wakeup call for us.”

“Good on the Bulldogs, they played well and played the way they wanted to play.”

Piri said the match against the Eels would be a “testing point” for the Panthers.

“It’s a testing point for our team, and it’s always a good match between these two teams; it all depends on the day and who performs,” he said.

“For us, it will be all about getting out there and getting the job done and most importantly, believing in ourselves.”

Eels coach Clive Nicholas said they are always wary of their neighbours, the Panthers.

“For the past 10 to 15 years, the Eels and the Panthers have been dominant, it’s either Eels in the final or the Panthers,” Nicholas said.

“It doesn’t matter what happened last week, they lost and we won. This is a new week and they will be a different team. It’s always a different ball game when these two teams meet.

“It will be a battle between the two brothers to determine who is the older brother and who is the younger.”

Nicholas said they have the depth in their squad with a good turnout of Cook Islands players attending their training alongside the expats and imports.

Cook Islands Rugby League secretary Franky Toa is calling on the fans to come out in numbers to support their teams in this double header.

“Rugby league fans are in for a real treat this weekend with a double premier match of Panthers vs Eels and Sea Eagles vs Bears and a women’s match with last year’s grand finalists Lady Bears vs Lady Panthers,” Toa said.

“I can and want to say more but I won’t, because I want our league fans to come out to Raemaru Park and see it for themselves.”


Raemaru Park, Arorangi – Junior development for six to 12 years (turning 12 this year); 12.30pm U14s Panthers vs Eels, U14s Sea Eagles BYE; 1.30pm U16s Panthers vs Sea Eagles; 2.45pm Women’s Bears vs Panthers; 3.30pm Premier Panthers vs Eels; 5pm Premier Bears vs Sea Eagles. Premier Men’s - Bulldogs BYE, Women’s - Bulldogs BYE, U16s - Bears BYE.