MASSIVE INJURY TOLL FORCES TIGERS’ HAND
An extraordinary injury toll has forced Papanui Tigers into the difficult decision to default their Massetti Cup men’s premiership and Canterbury Cup premier reserves games this weekend.
Papanui currently has 27 unavailable premier players – 16 of those with season-ending injuries – and more than 40 injured players across both grades.
The Tigers had to call upon President’s grade players, including a 50-year-old, to field a team last weekend. Courageously, they finished with an even share of the second-half points in their Massetti Cup clash with Northern Bulldogs, eventually going down 64-24 after falling behind 40-0 by halftime.
Papanui was scheduled to play Linwood in both grades on Saturday. The fact the Keas have effectively wrapped up top spot in both competitions heading into the finals made a gut-wrenching call easier for the depleted Tigers.
“At the end of the day (playing) would just cause worse problems,” Papanui manager Craig Sullivan said.
“We’ve had an unprecedented run of shocking injuries, bad luck after bad luck. It’s not due to lack of fitness or lack of training, it’s just one of those things.”
But Sullivan confirmed the Tigers aim to compete in the Gore Cup, the post-season competition for the bottom-four teams in the premier division. Cooling their heels this weekend will give provide the club with the opportunity to do that.
“A lot of the guys have played through injury. At the moment we’ve got so many 50-50s of the ones that aren’t season-ending, that if we played this week we could quite easily get another four or five injuries,” he explained.
“Whereas with a couple of weeks’ rest we’re hoping enough of them will get over their injuries to play through.
“If we tried to put a makeshift team together it wouldn’t be fair on the game, or Linwood. We don’t want to be sending out players that aren’t up to that level of football.
“It’s not going to affect any of the tables – it probably would have been a harder decision if it was going to affect the tables.”
While this reluctant measure is a bitter note for the club to finish the regular season on, Sullivan said 2018 has been a year brimming with positives so far.
The playing ranks had a major overhaul in the off-season, meaning incoming coach Darrell Coad had to search far and wide for new recruits.
“The club’s doing really well, we’ve picked up a lot of juniors this year as well. We’ve got a lot of new people at the club,” Sullivan said.
“We started with three premier players from last season, the rest are all new.
“We’ve had a lot of guys come from rugby (union) or from out of town.”
The Tigers picked up three wins in their first eight games in the Massetti Cup but have lost their last five as their casualty ward filled.
However, the new-look squad’s commitment and pluck cannot be questioned. During this losing run they went down to top-four sides Halswell and Hornby by just six points.
“At the end of the day we’ve only lost a few games by more than 10 points, quite a few games we’ve been ahead at halftime and lost the game. I think there’s a lot of positives there,” Sullivan said.
“We’ve got a lot of guys still learning the game.”