Sea Eagles 'stay and play together'
Player commitment to club goals is the best chance the Papakura Sea Eagles have of winning the Fox Memorial Trophy, the symbol of rugby league supremacy in Auckland.
That is the view of coach Darrin Smith after the Sea Eagles' 16-10 semifinal loss to the Glenora Bears at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
The loss knocked Papakura out of the grand final and maintained their 50-year-old record of never having won the Fox.
But that might change if first-year coach Smith gets his way.
He says the team was so affected by player commitments to the Auckland Vulcans, the side that plays in the New South Wales Cup, that he was having to rejig his line-up from week to week.
The Sea Eagles had the Bristow brothers, Rusty and SJ, William Stowers, Darren Kingi, Roman Hifo on Vulcan call-up and Atu Tupo, Trent Bishop and James Taylor running with the Warriors under-20s squad.
Smith says he had no issue with under-20 players being committed to the Junior Warriors because that is a pathway for the club's youngsters.
The issue was having so many Sea Eagles players putting their hands up for Vulcans duty.
"It's something we're going to have to sort out next year," Smith says. "It really affected us this year. We were regularly having to change our line-up, sometimes at short notice because players were being called up at short notice.
"We couldn't build any consistency and it was a struggle just to make the semifinals."
Smith says that if he has his way, he will pick players who can commit themselves to the goal of winning the Fox.
"The best way to win a championship is for a team to stay and play together." That's a proven formula, he says, and he wants to discuss the issue with the Sea Eagles management.
Smith is otherwise pleased to have taken the Sea Eagles to the Fox semifinals at his first attempt, and that has made him hungrier.
The team is more frustrated than disappointed at not having reached the grand final, he says.
"We should have won that match. We dominated possession. We dominated territory. We dominated nearly every statistic except the scoreboard," he says.
Poor options cost them a place in the final.
Glenora will play minor premiers Mt Albert in the grand final at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
The Sharman Cup grand final will feature the Mangere East Hawks and the Papatoetoe Panthers.