Timing not great for Pikiao WarriorsSave
By Stuart Whitaker
The timing of this afternoon's game at Puketawhero Park could be better for Pikiao coach Jason Parata.
Not only has the kick-off been shifted to 5pm because of a shortage of referees, Parata is down on troops and, while the Warriors were beating Ngongotaha Chiefs last Saturday, the Otumoetai Eels were resting up with the competition bye.
"It's probably a case of fingers crossed as I have a few injuries and a few out."
Perhaps the biggest loss will be halfback Kihiroa Wihapi who suffered a dislocated shoulder and ligament damage in the win over Ngongotaha and is expected to be out of action for about four weeks.
Also out is try-scoring winger Stonie Bartle, also with a shoulder ligament injury.
"I've also got a couple out with family commitments," said Parata.
On a more positive note, there are players in the club's reserve grade side who are capable of stepping up to the premiers.
Today's game is a clash of the two unbeaten sides in the Coastline/BOP competition, although the Eels came out on top 24-10 when the two sides met in a pre-season grading game.
"We know where their strengths are, but knowing that and stopping it is probably the big thing."
At the heart of most of the Eels' play is former Canberra Raider Josh Weeden.
Despite last week's 40-24 derby win, Parata wants his team to tighten up on defence and has also been talking at training about heat-of-the-moment ill-discipline.
"I thought we leaked way too much against Ngongotaha and then we let the emotion get in so I am just trying to get the emotion out of it."
Ngongotaha Chiefs have a potentially tricky trip to Putaruru to take on Mangakino Hawks. The Hawks were well beaten by Pacific last weekend but scored a big win themselves against Taneatua the weekend before.
Chiefs coach Jason Walker said little mistakes at crucial times and a lack of discipline cost his side last weekend and that was something he had been "trying to ram into" his
players this week.
"All we can do is eliminate our mistakes, it just makes it easier."
He has also had to draft in new players because of injury, but unlike the pre-season grading game when Mangakino emerged victorious, he will have a full complement of 17 players.
"We only had 14 players last time and they got a bit tired," said Walker.
He admits fitness is an issue for his side, which started preparation for the season late after originally not having a side in the competition.