WA Smarter than Smoking Premiership Grand Final Preview including all other Grades
By The Bell Ringer
WA Smarter than Smoking Premiership Grand Final – Rockingham v Fremantle #WASharksRoosters #SmarterthanSmoking
2017 has produced one of the closest seasons in the history of rugby league in Western Australia. Throughout the year most of the top 5 teams have taken turns at beating each other. On any given day the North Beach Sea Eagles could beat the Rockingham Sharks and the South Perth Lions could beat the Fremantle Roosters and Joondalup beat or drew with every team in the competition. There were periods where 4 of the 6 teams topped the table, but when all was said and done, after 17 rounds where two out of every three games was a toss of a coin it was the Rockingham Sharks and the Fremantle Roosters who were the best, most consistent teams. It is only fitting then that these two teams should have the honour of facing off for the title. When these teams met a fortnight ago it lived up to the hype. The Roosters started fast, but the Sharks fought their way back and looked to have the game won, only for the Chooks to pull a rabbit out of a hat in the dying stages. Not many teams have been able to score points against the Sharks, but the Roosters are one team that hasn’t seemed to have any problem with Rockingham’s defence. During 2017 the Sharks have conceded 30 points or more on just 3 occasions and all 3 of them were in losses to the Roosters. Remarkably the Sharks have only conceded more than 20 on 1 other occasion, which was the 26-all draw with Joondalup. Coach Darren Shaw may need to take a different approach to their defensive structure in order to contain the flamboyant Roosters. If they can contain the Roosters they will win, but in all bar one of their meetings so far this year they’ve been unable to contain them.
The Roosters are likely to welcome back key forwards Bjorn Crotty and Brad Gibson for the clash, with the aggressive utility Te Puna Sellers also a big chance. This will give the Roosters confidence that they can not only reproduce the performance that got them to the grand final, but better it, which is a dangerous proposition for Rockingham.
For the Sharks they will have better continuity and they would have gained a lot of confidence from their come from behind win last week. They were 18-0 down against Joondalup before staging a remarkable recovery to win 30-18. It wasn’t the fact that they came back, it was that they did it without any hint of catch up footy. They simply stuck to their plan of completing their sets, kicking deep and kicking early and wait for the Giants big boys to run out of steam. They will need a different plan against the Roosters, because their fit, mobile forwards will go all day and Delane Edwards will relish the opportunity to return the football from the long run. The Roosters will look to target the edge where Tyler Hunt stands and while he’s been adequate defensively so far it will be a different proposition when Brad Gibson puts a target on his chest
If at least 2 out of Thompson, Crotty and Gibson play I think the Roosters will be very hard to beat. They will shift to the edges, forcing the Sharks defence to spread and these powerful workhorses will then work through the middle to score the points. The Sharks will look to isolate Connelly with whoever is marking him to create space, while Hunt will also be an attacking threat whenever he takes on the line. I will probably change my tip again in an hour or so, but for right now I’ll go with the Roosters by 10.
Perth Smarter than Smoking Reserve Grade Grand Final – Rockingham v Willagee
Willagee will again go into this game as the underdogs despite winning the minor premiership. The good news for the Bears is that Logan Barclay, who scored two tries in the major semi final, is likely to be playing first grade, however the truth is that in that semi final the Sharks never looked like losing. The game will be close and the win last week will give the Bears confidence. In the 5 meetings between the teams in 2017 the Bears have won 3 and the Sharks 2, however the biggest margin was the 10 points that separated the teams in the major semi. I’ll go against the odds and go with the fairy tale of a Bears win.
Val Murphy Trophy Grand Final – South Perth v Joondalup
The Lions did not have a team in the Val Murphy Trophy until round 5, when the Joondalup Giants toweled them up 42-10. The Lions did not lose another game in the competition until they again ran into the Giants at Admiral Park and they again got soundly beaten 32-20, however in their most recent meeting the Lions were convincing winners 28-6. This should be a really good game, but looking at previous meetings they haven’t been close. I think there’s a lot of class in this Lions team and they will be good enough to get the win in this game.
Perth Smarter than Smoking Under 18’s Grand Final – North Beach v Joondalup
After 6 rounds of the under 18’s competition these two teams were sitting in last and second last, but after struggling for numbers and injuries early in the season they have finished full of running. The under 18’s always produces plenty of attack and not too much defence, so expect a high scoring match. Watch out for Beau Constable from the Sea Eagles out of dummy half, while the Giants will look to regular first graders Zan Pomare and Christian Smith to set them up for victory. The Sea Eagles have not lost since round 5 so it’s very hard to tip against them here.
Perth Smarter than Smoking Womens League Tag Grand Final – Fremantle v Joondalup
Like the first grade contest this is a match between the two best teams all season. Fremantle are undefeated, and Joondalup’s only losses have been to Fremantle. The Roosters will start as favorites and deservedly so, but Joondalup have been close in the past and will be within reach for most of this game. I think there’ll be less than a try in the game, but going with the Roosters to get the job done.
Junior State Challenge – Ellenbrook Rabbitohs v North West Reds
The North West Reds will be a bit of an unknown entity, but a great chance for them to come down and get some footy in against some quality oppositions. It’s a really busy week and this will be the Reds fourth game in a week. Expect them to be competitive early on, but the Rabbitohs, who won their grand final last weekend will likely be the fresher team in the back end