By Peter Rowe
The NRLWA Fuel to Go and Play Premiership reaches a dramatic preliminary climax tomorrow when North Beach Sea Eagles host local rivals Joondalup Giants in a game many cannot predict the outcome of.
Both teams are capable of winning and reaching the grand final on September 9, and both teams are confident of doing that, but only one will.
Picking the winner of this close matchup is virtually impossible, but it may come down to two players – the hookers.
A battle of the ruck is the key area that could decide the outcome of this game with two quality hookers going head to head.
On one side is Trent Trotter, the North Beach No.9, more experienced than his opposite number, a master of timing, both crafty and a craftsman. He will be hard to stop.
On the other side the younger River Colman. Some would say more ambitious but a player who can make something out of nothing.
“Yes, it’s going to be interesting, two different styles of play and it could help define the game,” Giants player-coach Taurean Sheehan admitted this week.
Sea Eagles coach Phil Douche has singled out Colman as one to watch as well.
“He injects so much around the ruck,” Douche said.
“And Davey Martin is another danger man we have to be aware of.”
Douche has worked hard with his team all week after last weekend’s disappointing loss to Fremantle and will have a full squad to choose from.
“I’ve had to have a couple of tough conversations with players when picking the team, but I guess that for a coach is a good headache,” he said.
“We’ve got over last week – we’ve had to. That game is gone so we put it behind us and focus on what’s in front.
“We’ve had a good week and we’re positive. We know what Joondalup can do. They have changed their game style a bit and have become more expansive around the edges in recent weeks, so we have to be ready for that.
“But we’ve got a team to do the job and I’m confident we can do it.”
The Giants welcome back Josh Houghton and Domanyc Fidow-Kele to the forwards. “Yeah, we’ve got some big boys in the engine room,” Sheehan joked.
And after three training sessions this week, they are fine tuned and ready for action.
But it could be in the backs where they make inroads, as Douche has suggested.
“We got to a stage a few weeks back when it wasn’t really working, so we knew we had to change something,” Sheehan said.
“Call it expansive if you like, but it’s worked and we are here, one game away from a grand final.”
Sheehan knows the two danger men in maroon they will have to contain are hooker Trotter and halfback Tyron Cranston.
“Tyron is one of the best players in the competition. He has the ability to really make you pay if you don’t watch him,” Sheehan said.
“Give him space and he’ll really hurt you.”
Sheehan said his side will work to their strengths rather than watch the opposition’s and focus on what they know they can do.
“We delivered last week, we have to do it again,” he said. “And we can.”
The last time these two sides met in Round 15 North Beach came back from an 8-0 halftime deficit to record a 40-18 win in a game Sheehan admitted communication was a problem within his side.
And the battle of the ruck was won that day by the Sea Eagles.
There was communication galore in last week’s impressive win over South Perth, enough for Joondalup to also be confident of a win.
With buzzwords like ‘high energy’, ‘completion rates’, ‘execution’ and ‘defence’ on the lips of both coaches – picking a winner has never been harder.
NRL WA Preliminary Final
Blueforce Park, Charles Riley Reserve, North Beach – 4.50pm
North Beach Sea Eagles v Joondalup Giants