2023 NRL WA Premiership Preview – Round 09

By Peter Rowe

Fremantle Roosters held a welcome to country smoking ceremony at training this week as they prepared to host the South Perth Lions in the NRLWA’s Fuel to Play and Go Indigenous Round.

Captain Duane Butler said the experience was culturally rewarding as the Roosters seek to extend the gap at the top of the ladder from the chasing pack that includes the Joondalup Giants, the competition’s form team in recent weeks.

“We’ve got special indigenous jerseys and the design was explained to us, which was was really appreciated,” Butler said.

“Now we’ve got to focus on the field again after a week off.”

The Roosters will be at ‘almost full strength’ for the visit of the Lions but know they will have to improve on their skills to ensure they take the points.

“We’ve been concentrating on endurance fitness the last couple of weeks and at training on Tuesday our skills definitely needed some work,” Butler said.

“South Perth have beaten us twice this season (pre-season and round four) so we really want to get one over them.”

The Lions are hoping to have centre Corbyn Daniels back in their lineup for the game, although they will be missing tackling machine Joey Halpin through injury, with assistant coach Paul Brown knowing a good start to the game is crucial.

“If we are to beat them again, we have to control the ruck and complete our sets,” Brown said.

“They have a big set of forwards and we can”t afford to let them dominate.

“We can score points, but we’ve got to limit what they can do, so it’s going to be a big defensive effort.”

Second-placed Joondalup Giants will be hoping to stay on the heels of the Roosters when they host the Rockingham Sharks at Admiral Park.

The Giants surprised many two weeks ago when they drew 18-apiece with the Roosters, after surging to an early 16-0 lead.

Player-coach Taurean Sheehan, who is still missing with a rib injury, will also be without American speedster Travis Haney.

The winger was injured in the Perth Challenge last week and will miss the Sharks game, along with a couple of late FIFO withdrawals, but Sheehan sees that as a challenge.

“All clubs have faced the work roster issue this season and we are no different,” Sheehan said.

“Our goal is still the same, despite the obstacles.”

Sheehan still sees the Sharks as a threat in the competition, despite their current last place on the ladder.

“They have been close in every game they’ve played and we just got across the line when we beat them at Rockingham earlier in the season,” he said.

“The middle is where we will need to grind it out to win and the result will be decided on which team can play out their sets the best and which can defend.”

Sharks player coach Tom Murphy has a strong squad to choose from, welcoming back centres Rueben Baillie and Logan Barclay for the must-win game.

“It will be physical,” Murphy said. “They are a big side and will push us, but we’ve trained well and for the first time in a few weeks we’ve got a strong side.”

Pictures – Courtesy Fremantle Roosters