WOUNDED TIGERS REFLECT ON TOUGH SEASON
It’s been a tough year for Papanui Tigers, finishing seventh in the 2018 Massetti Cup and having to default their final-round game against Linwood Keas because of injury toll that left more than 30 players unavailable.
It was never going to be easy for the Tigers as they had to try and find ways to compensate for the 18 players that left the club at the end of last season.
Papanui’s casualty ward was consistently busy during the season, and having only won three games with a revolving cast of players wasn’t something coach Darrell Coad was too thrilled about.
“We played (Northern Bulldogs) and we lost three more with potentially season-ending injuries, so to come up against Linwood last week and try and put out a side would be inadequate,” said Coad, who finished up as coach last week.
“That is no disrespect to any of the guys who have been there all season or who could possibly help us out, we just thought for the better of the game we would default.”
On the flipside, not everything was negative to come out of their 2018 campaign. The Tigers showed flashes of brilliance throughout the season – at one point they had the undefeated Keas trailing 18-8 at half time.
Coad believes that his forward pack, when fully fit, were the best in the competition – a view he said was not limited to those within the Papanui club.
“Without a doubt, and other clubs have said it, we had the best forward pack going around the town,” Coad declared.
He says a disrupted build-up had the Tigers on the back from the outset, and potentially led the team to having so many injuries and not performing to the level they are capable of.
“It comes down to a few things I guess, we didn’t have the greatest pre-season this year, we struggled to get guys to pre-season,” Coad explained.
“That’s taken its toll a little bit and a lack of fitness. Just a lot of injuries – a lot of major injuries knees, shoulders and ankles.”
In difficult circumstances, few Tigers players impressed more than props Isaac Maliota and Elijah Tauamiti. Coad said they played a big part in Papanui’s engine-room, with both players earning a spot in the Rockcote Canterbury Bulls squad.
Coad also praised his players that switched codes from rugby union, saying they really stepped up and were fantastic additions to his team.
Papanui will now face bottom-placed Riccarton in the first round of the Gore Cup.
Coad said he has learned a lot from the season – including how important having a good pre-season is and compiling a squad willing to commit to playing footy for nine months of the year.
“We definitely needed a better commitment from the players in terms of pre-season training. You just can’t play at that level and not be fit. You are going to get injuries,” he lamented.
Looking at the broader Massetti Cup picture, the question on everyone’s lips is: can anyone spoil the Keas’ unbeaten run?
“They are beatable, it’s just a matter of a team putting in an 80-minute effort against Linwood and completing their sets and doing the little things right and I’m sure (someone) can get over the top of them,” Coad said.