Doha coach Alex Natera is using the pain of the club’s past to fire his players up for the end of the season, in which they will be targeting West Asia Cup glory.
A revelation at the end of February revealed that this season’s West Asia Premiership was being run on a league and not a play-off format – something clubs were infuriated about but had actually known about since the summer when Asia Rugby sent each club a copy of the rules and regulations.
It means Abu Dhabi Harlequins are WAP champions, but Natera backed the belief voiced by most other clubs that the play-offs, which will be used to crown the Cup winners, are what will determine the true champions.
“The season has become a massive anti-climax, but the play-off winner is the main one,” said Natera.
“As far as we are concerned on the evening of March 31 the champion side will be announced. Some of the lads were deflated a bit but I just got them to cast their minds back a few years ago where they won the league (Gulf Top 6) and then lost the final (to Abu Dhabi Saracens).”
Doha were scheduled to welcome Dubai Hurricanes this weekend, but tomorrow (Friday’s) game has been forfeited by Canes, who are struggling for numbers.
And it is another issue which has left Natera and his side upset.
“I am very disappointed that Hurricanes have forfeited due to player availability,” added Natera, who suggests Canes should be fined.
“It kills our run in to the semi-finals. We will not have played a game in four weeks by the time we face Bahrain. I’m really disappointed that this can happen in the West Asia Premiership.
“Other unions would administer relegations or significant fines for this. It has massive ramifications on our prep for rugby but also on our bar takings and club finances.
“Missing the finances that come from a home game v Al Ain and now Canes is not great for a club that has to fly nearly every second weekend.
“Almost every away game this year I have had to field second team players and go short on the bench because of player availability, visa restriction etc. I’ve even brought in retired players and ex-club players living in the UAE.
“If canes had 12 players unavailable then those spots should have been filled with second team players – simple. then just live with the result and get on with it.
“If this league is to be taken seriously on the world stage this sort of thing should not happen lightly. Teams that can’t or won’t fulfil their fixtures should play in other competitions where the consequences are not so great for the team that is let down.
“Just to make matters worse both Bahrain and us have finished in the top four, and we have fulfilled all our fixtures, yet the losing team in the semi-final next week has to play off for relegation out of the West Asia Premiership. Perhaps the league should reconsider this based on this forfeit.”
Canes head coach Mike Wernham, however, said the request to cancel the fixture was made with the UAE Rugby Federation in good time due to several player injuries and others attending a wedding.
“We forfeited the game. We put the call in two weeks ago. I made checks on availability and we’ve got an in-house wedding of a former player of ours, so we won’t have the numbers available,” said Wernham.
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