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Porirua Showdown a Family Affair

Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Porirua Showdown a Family Affair

If there’s one game on the NZRL National Premiership schedule that carries just a little more spice than others, this week’s Wellington Orcas v Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions is that fixture.

Stallions coach Tony Lajpold admits he does not relish the thought of losing to counterpart and brother-in-law Darryl Marino. That Christmas family dinner would seem perhaps a little more awkward than usual.

But the Orcas may just enter their clash in Porirua this Saturday as favourites, on the back of a shock first-up draw with Akarana Falcons and a big win over northern neighbours Central Vipers last week.

That result in Whanganui represented a 66-point turnaround from their loss in the same encounter 12 months ago, indicating things have changed dramatically in Marino’s first season at the helm.

“We seem to be going along nicely at the moment, but we have some tough games still to come,” he cautions.

“I just think the players are working hard at training. They’re committed, they seem to be gelling, things are coming together and that’s equating to some good performances.”

That’s a huge shift from the 2014 programme, which realised just one win. Marino wasn’t involved in that campaign and avoids making comparisons, but his philosophy seems aligned with many of his rivals as this competition evolves.

“We’re trying to pick the best players, but ones that have strong character too,” he says. “We speak to all the local premier coaches and we believe, if players are doing the right things for their club, we’re prepared to pick them.

“If they aren’t, we don’t. We want strong characters.

“When we go to training, we know they’re going to be there too and want to be there, and they’re working hard for each other.”

Catching the Falcons first-up was a godsend for the Orcas, given the best Akarana players were still distracted by Auckland club playoffs and Warriors commitments. Wai-Coa-Bay were probably similarly advantaged in their opening win over Counties Manukau Stingrays.

But the circumstances that cost those two powerhouses their spots in last year’s final have shown other teams that there is more to a campaign than just having the best depth of talent.

The Stallions were the biggest beneficiaries of that chain of events and Marino is obviously just as wary of what his brother-in-law is achieving in the Upper Central Zone.

“I think they’re going to be one of the teams to beat,” he says. “They’re carrying on from where they left off last season. Whatever the circumstances, they’re building on it.

“I think we’ve all taken confidence from what happened at the end of the season. If you can put a good campaign together, anything’s possible.

“We’re now working hard to put together those performances.”

The Stingrays bounced back from their opening loss to trounce Northern Swords last week and host the Vipers this week, while Akarana return from the bye for a possible season-defining encounter with defending champions Rockcote Canterbury Bulls in Christchurch.

NZRL National Premiership
Saturday, September 12

Massey Park, Papakura, 1pm
Counties Manukau Stingrays v Central Vipers

Porirua Park, Wellington, 1pm
Wellington Orcas v Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions

Sunday, September 13

AMI Stadium, Christchurch, 2.30pm
Rockcote Canterbury Bulls v Akarana Falcons

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