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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rhinos look promising despite exodus

KOTA KINABALU: The Rhinos, under new head coach Wathiq Naji, look promising despite having almost all of their first-team players leave the team for greener pastures elsewhere.

And interestingly this time around, the team will be spearheaded by an almost all-local side for the new season scheduled to kick off on January 9.
With the exception of Wong Sai Kong, who is into his second season with the team, and new boy Mohd Fariss, the rest are all local players.

Over the weekend the Rhinos proved that there is still “life” after the exodus of players at the end of last season.

Playing against two Super League outfits – DPMM Brunei and Pahang in the Datuk M Saravanan Challenge Trophy in Labuan, the Rhinos showed they can compete with the best.

In the tournament Sabah defeated eventual winners DPMM Brunei 1-0 in the opener before losing by an identical scoreline to Pahang in the second match.

“I’m satisfied with their overall performances,” Rahman Zakaria commented.

“Against Pahang, it was a 50-50 affair.

“They scored the goal following a freak incident where a clearance by Gasili (Pengalot) hit the referee. The ball fell right in front of a Pahang player,” he said, referring to Azamuddin Akil’s strike, who curled the ball past the hapless Sabah’s third choice goalkeeper Mohd Salawi Jasad.

“This is football and anything can happen. But if not for that I think the outcome of the game could have been different,” Rahman added.

DPMM Brunei went on to lift the trophy plus RM5,000 prize money after edging Pahang 2-1 in their final game on Sunday.

All three teams were level on three points, but at the end of the day, Brunei were awarded the challenge trophy.

“Our purpose to Labuan was to gain match fitness and we achieved it.

“I’m happy to see that they played quite well as a team, but most importantly, the players played their hearts out and showed that were so determined and committed to win the game.

“They tried really hard, and I hope they will maintain this attitude be it in training or in the league.

“On the night they showed what they are capable of. Their strength as well as their weaknesses also prevailed and now we just need to rectify their weaknesses and fine tune the team.

“We are almost there,” said Rahman as far as their readiness for the new season is concerned.

So now, Rahman said it is important for the players to keep working hard in training in order for the team to be ready for the new season.

And Rahman believes there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel provided that the players are willing to strive for success.

Furthermore he added that they have an experienced coach to guide them all the way.

“While on the field we have a good blend of players who are willing to fight for the team, on the sidelines, we also have a blend of experienced and talented officials, who I believe can guide the team to success.

“For instance, our new head coach (Wathiq) is a very experienced man while his two assistants (Mohd Asyraaf and Burhan Ajui) are rookie coaches. With three heads together, I’m pretty sure the team will benefit,” said Rahman.

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