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On Saturday the Bulls host defending national premiership champions Akarana Falcons at Nga Puna Wai to decide this year’s title.
It will be the Bulls first grand-final appearance since 2015. They qualified for the final in dominant fashion by going unbeaten in the three-week round-robin.
The Bulls believe it’s not down to chance their rise has coincided with their first season at Nga Puna Wai.
Since the 2011 earthquake, the Bulls have been without a true home. While they still played at Rugby League Park in previous years, it had very much become the new home of Canterbury rugby and the Crusaders.
They were also forced to train at whatever club grounds around Christchurch were available – most of which had insufficient lighting for their evening trainings.
During this campaign the Bulls have been able to train at Nga Puna Wai and after their first premiership win at the ground on Sunday it feels like a true home.
"It’s [Nga Puna Wai] such a cool place. It’s vibrant in a way because there’s always other people around with the hockey players and athletics. Then you’ve got our little area which is just for footy . . . it’s a semi-professional set-up and the boys don’t take it for granted because we used to train all over the place. To have a set-up like we have now has been a massive help,” said Bulls co-captain Tevin Arona.
The homely feeling comes in the fine print. They have their own video analysis room on-site and now have their names and photos permanently on display in the changing rooms.
“At the rugby stadium they had gold plates which had some legendary names like Richie McCaw. That was pretty unreal and really cool, but it’s good to have something that represents us and league,” said Arona.
On Saturday the Bulls can add to a proud legacy. They last won the premiership in 2014, but haven’t won the country’s biggest prize on home soil since 2009 when they defeated Auckland 26-20 at Rugby League Park. They also have the chance to add Nga Puna Wai to the history books.
“I think it’s on their minds that this is a pretty special occasions,” said Bulls coach Andrew Auimatagi.
In the opening round of the premiership the Bulls defeated Akarana 28-18 in Auckland. However, they will have expectations of redemption in the hunt for their fourth straight title.
“They’ll be hurting from that first game and wanting to prove a point. They are the reigning champs so they’ll come down here with a lot of expectation as well,” said Auimatagi.
Other than Matthew Sauni – who is in Samoa – Auimatagi expects to have a full strength squad to select from.
Kick off is at 2.30pm.