Grand final: Sea Eagles or Panthers?

Saturday June 02, 2018 Written by Published in League
Calm before the storm… Panthers captain Teina Savage, left, and his Sea Eagles counterpart Daniel Toa share a laugh as they pose for the pre-fi nal photoshoot outside Vonnia’s. Vonnia’s is selling both teams’ supporting jerseys for the final. 18060133 Calm before the storm… Panthers captain Teina Savage, left, and his Sea Eagles counterpart Daniel Toa share a laugh as they pose for the pre-fi nal photoshoot outside Vonnia’s. Vonnia’s is selling both teams’ supporting jerseys for the final. 18060133

Daniel Toa was frank with his reply when asked if he thought Ngatangiia Matavera Sea Eagles would have made it to the grand final given their poor form at the start of the season.

“No,” he bluntly said. “But we worked hard and here we are.”

Certainly they did and deservingly so. If there was any inspirational “back from the dead” story about this year’s domestic rugby league season, it has to be the Sea Eagles meteoric rise in the competition.

The Muri-based side started off with successive losses in the opening round before they turned the tide and recorded some superb wins in the second round, all thanks to some timely and quality import players.

Today, the Sea Eagles, which many ruled out of premiership contention early in the competition, will battle the mighty Tupapa Panthers in an exciting grand final at the BCI Stadium in Nikao.

“We talked about our performance early in the season and worked hard on improving and getting better,” Toa said.

“We started motivating each other and our bonding sessions on Friday before the match day played a major part in giving us the confidence in wanting to wear that jersey.”

Confidence is what the Sea Eagles have been relying on and it has surely worked well for them.

Up against the giants, defending champions Titikaveka Bulldogs and former champions Avatiu Nikao Eels in the playoffs, the Sea Eagles brigade played like true champions to put them in contention for the premiership title.

“The preparation went well, the coach has done his part and now it’s time for the players to do theirs,” Toa said.

“We have come so far and it’s our final game. I don’t know when we last won the tournament, maybe more than 20 years ago. We will try our best to end that (winless) drought.”

If there is any team that can end the dream run of the Sea Eagles, it has to be the Panthers.

They are without doubt in unbeatable form, and with the mix of players in the side, the Panthers will be a tough nut for the Sea Eagles to crack.

Skipper Teina Savage said there was a “good buzz” in the camp and the players were excited about the final.

He said the two-week break also worked in their favour as it allowed players ample time to rest and recover for the main match.

“The preparation has been going well. We have a good mixture of players in the side and we have been bonding well,” Savage said.

“We are certainly wary of the Sea Eagles, they are a good side and we are looking forward to playing them in the final.”

Both teams have some quality players who have played some brilliant footy this season to guide them through to the final.

Panthers, given their form from the start of the season, will have a bit of pressure to win the title they last hoisted in 2014.

For the Sea Eagles, they have nothing to lose. They were not expected to make it this far and a win this afternoon will be a bonus to what has already been a tremendous season for them.

The grand final premier match today will kick off at 4pm. Gates will open at 10am. Entry fee is $5 for adults and a gold-coin donation for children.

Fixtures

11am Junior Development; 1pm Under 19s, Bulldogs v Bears; 2.30pm Premier Reserves, Panthers v Eels; 4pm Premiers, Sea Eagles v Panthers.

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