IT WAS a bittersweet moment for the champions Avatiu Nikao Eels who won the 2017 Bluesky High Performance Club Nines in a spectacular fashion on Tuesday at The Swamp.
The emphatic 33-10 win over the Ngatangiia/Matavera Sea Eagles brought much joy to its supporters, but an announcement from coach Albert Nicholas saddened many around the club.
Nicholas, who has been mentoring the team for the past 12 years, is calling it quits after guiding the Eels to some memorable victories in his tenure.
He will step down from his role at the end of this season to allow others at the club to take up the challenge.
“This is my 12th year of coaching this side and I have been trying to kind of step aside for a number of years now. I tried it in 2015 by bringing Riki (Cowan) into the club but unfortunately his wife passed away and he moved on,” Nicholas, who is also the Internal Affairs and Sports minister, said.
“Recently, I have been inspired by some really close friends of mine so, finally, I’m having the courage to say this is my final year. There is more to life than rugby league.
“I will see this season through and will just quietly step aside. I might probably play a different role in the club. I’m really keen to be the grounds man for the club and I might focus on that.”
Nicholas’ final year in charge started on a high after the rampant Eels showed power and determination to outclass the Sea Eagles in a fiery final of second Nines meet.
After running ahead 16-4 in the opening spell, the unbeaten Eels delivered another masterpiece performance in the second half to seal the 33-10 win.
Despite the loss, Sea Eagles which at times stood firm to the tough Eels hits, put on an inspiring performance after mixed results on day one.
The side defeated Arorangi Bears 12-8 while the Eels overcame Tupapa Panthers 13-4 in the semi-finals.
“Grand final footie is a totally different game altogether than how you perform in the semis and even in the rounds,” Nicholas said.
“The final footie is all about passion, pride and honour and our boys delivered when we needed to deliver and I’m thankful for such bunch of good guys.
“I know we have been under pressure recently with player movements within our clubs, but we can’t cry over spilt milk and we just have to move on from there and figure out what we need to do.”