Lighter times ahead
A rugby league side that have been through some lean years on the field, and have resorted to weeknight trainings in a car park, have the belief they can achieve something special this year.
Titahi Bay Marlins have been established for over 20 years but it’s only since 2003 that they have had a regular presence in Wellington rugby league. They have always played at senior 1 level, but aspire to reach premier reserve grade.
A family-based club, their captain Jeff Risati reckons a better bunch of guys you won’t find.
‘‘Everyone plays for each other, we don’t have clubrooms and last year we won one game, but there is a lot of heart. After that terrible season, 35 guys still turned up for our first training run this year, that says something.’’
The team trains at Elsdon Park, using the spillover from lights above the hockey turf to conduct their drills and run through plays. In times past, when the lights weren’t on, they have either trained in the dark or run around in the Spotlight car park – with boots on – where street lights provide some illumination.
Things are looking up, however. Along with getting major sponsors Drive Safe on board, Ngati Toa sports club are giving them use of their lights in one corner of Elsdon Park.
This has gone hand-in-hand with better results on the field, as they have made the top six in Senior 1 for the first time. While they lost to the always-strong Kapiti Bears, they have recorded excellent wins over Wainuiomata (at Wise Park), Petone, Te Aroha and Trentham.
Second rower Risati has confidence as they head into the playoffs. As a unit, they have learnt how to win.
‘‘As a team we’re still rebuilding, and we have lost players to other clubs in the last few years, but we’re doing really well. There’s a sense of belief that we can take this out, we’re a good team right across the board – dominant forwards and, for the first time in a while, a decent backline.’’
In the top six format, everyone plays everyone once, with the points earned sorting out a top four for semifinal play.
Although their home ground is Cannons Creek Park, Risati and player-coach Ants Albert hope from next year, with Porirua City Council’s permission, they can make Elsdon Park their home and use the pavilion next to the hockey turf as changing rooms.
Marlins magic: Jeff Risati, left, player since 2006 and current captain, along with player-coach Ants Albert, pleased to be training again on grass.