Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin

SURFERS’ INDIHA-N SUMMER CUT SHORT

- NIC DARVENIZA

SURFERS Paradise livewire Indiha Saotui-Huta has left the team immediatel­y to pursue a profession­al Rugby Sevens contract with Samoa, smoothing the path for Helensvale to secure a place in the 2021 Gold Coast District finals on Saturday.

Saotui-Huta flew out for New Zealand on Friday afternoon for a connecting flight for Apia hours before the border closed to Australia.

His departure leaves Surfers without their brightest attacking spark for a clash with Helensvale that will help determine the destiny of multiple teams with playoff dreams.

The Palm Beach Currumbin graduate ended his debut season with 11 tries in 12 appearance­s, behind only Colleges’ Blake Griffin (15) in the tryscoring race.

The news came as a major relief to Helensvale as the Hogs battle to snap a four-game losing streak that threatens to bundle the team out of the finals race.

The Hogs need just one win and a loss to Bond Pirates to secure a semifinals berth.

With Bond facing undefeated Colleges and second-placed Nerang in the final two weeks, an understren­gth Surfers line-up could be the ticket to arrest their alarming slide.

“Obviously we know Indiha is an extremely talented player and a threat all over the field, you can’t ignore him anywhere,” Hogs coach Roscoe Deacon said.

“That’s a positive for us and disappoint­ing for them, but we’ve got to focus on ourselves.”

Surfers director of rugby Rangi Joseph said the sport was not a game of individual­s but conceded he would miss having one of the competitio­n’s most gifted athletes in his side.

“Indiha has been a huge strike player for us without a doubt and I’d be lying if I said anything worse,” Joseph said.

“He’s scored almost a try per match so there’s seven points a match we’ve lost.

“There’s still a lot of belief in this team and who they are and we’ll rely on the team, not individual­s, to get us over the line.”

Coach Deacon spent his first full week training with his side since getting trapped on the wrong side of the Western Australian border closure three weeks ago.

“With two games left we’re just focusing on getting our spark back and into the finals,” he said.

“Losing six players to injuries against Surfers last time totally derailed us. We lost our synergy and our cohesion and then the wheels came off against Palm Beach Currumbin.

“The boys have had a few honest sessions since and it’s my belief you get confidence back by being positive on the field.

“Nothing helps that more than winning.”

Colleges travel to Bond, Coomera host PBC and Gold Coast Eagles host Nerang.

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