NPL: Lambton Jaffas keen to lift for Ridge Mapu after career-ending injury

LAMBTON Jaffas will rally for Ridge Mapu in their NNSW NPL semi-final against Edgeworth on Saturday after the 25-year-old retired following news he needs a fourth knee reconstruction.

TIGHT: Ridge Mapu, centre, is swamped by teammates after scoring in last year's 2-0 extra-time grand final win over Edgeworth at McDonald Jones Stadium. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

TIGHT: Ridge Mapu, centre, is swamped by teammates after scoring in last year's 2-0 extra-time grand final win over Edgeworth at McDonald Jones Stadium. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Mapu went down in the final-round 2-1 loss to Lake Macquarie last Saturday with a suspected anterior cruciate ligament injury. Jaffas coach James Pascoe said scans confirmed the damage and Mapu had called it a day.

“I think it’s the right decision for him,” Pascoe said.

“It's the third time he’s done it in that left leg and he’s done the right one as well before. He works in the construction game so he needs his legs right. It’s unfortunate for him. He’s been terrific the last couple of years for us.”

He said the loss would provide added motivation for the Jaffas, who beat Edgeworth in the grand final last season but have come into this year’s play-offs in fourth spot and after two losses. 

“You don’t need anymore to play for in a semi-final, but when something like that happens to someone who’s worked as hard as Ridge has, and is as popular as he is, the boys will bind together and try and get a result for him,” he said.

Pascoe said the Jaffas were otherwise fully fit for the first leg at Edden Oval.

Edgeworth, premiers for a fourth consecutive season, will be without Daniel McBreen (overseas) and Aaron McLoughlin (Achilles). 

Meanwhile, Eagles coach Damian Zane responded to a comment this week from Pascoe that “I don’t think here’s any doubt we’ve got better players than them”.

“When there’s talk about better players and things like that, I think that’s disrespectful, but the players have a chuckle,” Zane said. ”Depending what you want, they might be better. Each coach has a way they want to play and I’m sure certain guys wouldn’t fit into other teams, so it’s an opinion.” 

“Anyway, it’s not tennis, it’s a team sport.”

Despite losing key players from last season, Edgeworth won the league by 11 points this year – the biggest margin of Zane’s four-peat.

“They fit in well with what we try to do,” he said of his players.

“I think sometimes too many chefs in the kitchen isn’t the best option, and it probably showed a bit last year with us. The balance wasn’t quite right, whereas this year, for whatever reason, they’ve all got along and worked hard.”

The Jaffas won their round one clash with Edgeworth 4-3 and drew their second. Zane believed his side would be much stronger third time around.

“I was watching the round one game, and we’re a different team to then,” he said.

“We struggled in the Heritage Cup, and that round one game we started slow and worked our way into it.

“We walked away from that with a bit of confidence and I looked at the team I put out, and I probably got a few things wrong. We’ve come a long away since then. It’s a credit to the players, because everyone was writing them off.

“I know there’s talk about Lambton having our measure but we won the Cup game last year, and they wanted to win that as much as we did.

“And essentially the grand final was a draw as far as 90 minutes goes. That was even, the first game this year they scored a 93rd minute winner and then we gave them a draw. So I don’t think there’s anything in it.”