In 2018 the Mangakino Hawks have been a runaway freight train, obliterating everything in their path in relentless fashion.

Tomorrow, the Ngongotahā Chiefs will strap on their Superman capes and step on to the tracks to tackle the train head-on in the Bay of Plenty/Coastline Premier rugby league grand final at Puketawhero Park.

Neither side played in last year's final, Ngongotahā failed to make the knockout stages, while Mangakino were beaten 26-12 by eventual winners Pikiao in the semifinals. What a difference a year makes.

Mangakino made their intentions clear from the get-go this season, finishing a pre-season tournament unbeaten before lifting the McLeod Cup as winners of the Bay of Plenty Nines.


They took that form into the premier season, winning 11 out of 12 games as they cruised to first place in the round-robin.

Coach George Samuels said earning a place in the final was "hugely exciting", but he wanted his side to show the same control they had played with all season.

"This whole week has been about slowing down to go faster, just controlling that excitement, the aggression and the emotions. Training on Tuesday was more about just realising where we are, how we got there and the reason we are there."

Johnson Peri scores for the Mangakino Hawks in the Bay of Plenty Nines Tournament earlier this year. Photo/File
Johnson Peri scores for the Mangakino Hawks in the Bay of Plenty Nines Tournament earlier this year. Photo/File

While it was important to recognise how well they had done so far, he said it was important to remember there was still another game to win.

"We spoke of our semi as being the last game, it was do or die and that's how we went into it - it's the same sort of talk now. This is really it.

"Ngongotahā are getting better and better every time we play them. Last time we played them it could've gone wither way," he said.

"Their speed around the ruck is something we are really concentrating on and they've probably got the biggest forward pack in the competition, in my opinion, and they're very mobile. It's a matter of grinding them down.

"Because our team is made up of, pretty much, guys from three towns - Mangakino, Tokoroa and Putaruru - each of those towns is bringing a whole lot of their own supporters. If it's anything like the semifinal, which was huge, I'm picking the crowd is going to be enormous," Samuels said.

Meanwhile, in comparison to last year, Ngongotahā have looked like a different side in 2018. Boasting one of the bigger forward packs in the competition, coach Paul Nahu has them playing a direct and entertaining brand of rugby league which has seen them improve exponentially throughout the season.

Nahu said playing in the final meant a lot to the team and the club as a whole.

"We haven't been in one for quite some time and we've worked really hard since last year. It means a fair bit and it's actually our 80th year, it was 1938 when Ngongotahā sort of officially started, so that's special as well."

An extra incentive for the Ngongotahā side will be the memory of local rugby league legend Phillip Orchard, who died on Sunday after a long battle with illness.

"I've talked about him at training, Phillip was doing his thing long before these guys were even around. I like to think that we are playing for him as well as everyone who has gone before him.

"We've talked about that during the season, you're just a caretaker of the jersey - there are a lot of guys who have gone before you and you'll pass it on to someone else."

Last weekend, Ngongotahā beat Pacific 34-20 to earn their spot in the final.

"We are adjusting a few different areas and the areas that we looked to strengthen, I was pleased with how that paid off. We'll need to do that again this weekend. Mangakino have been the top team all season and we expect them to lift to another level this weekend," Nahu said.

The Premier final kicks off at 2.45pm, while the Reserve grade final, between Tauhara and Taneatua, is at 1pm.