2023 NRL WA Premiership Preview – Round 12

By Peter Rowe

Two big games highlight Round 12 of the NRLWA Fuel to Go and Play Premiership with top spots on the ladder up for grabs as the competition hots up this weekend.

Fremantle Roosters can wrap up the minor premiership if they beat Joondalup Giants and South Perth will go a long way to cementing second spot if they can defeat North Beach at Blueforce Park.

But games going to form haven’t always worked to plan this season and Giants and Sea Eagles coaches Taurean Sheehan and Phil Douche will want to have plenty to say about the outcome of these two matches.

Fremantle were held to an 18-18 draw at home to the Giants a month ago at Treeby Park and captain Duane Butler knows it will be another physical encounter at Admiral Park on Saturday.

“We both have big, strong packs so that is where the battle will be,” Butler said.

“But we’re a bit down on troops with Taipa (Graham), Joey (Po’uhila) and Alan (Cowan) all missing, but we’ve got people to cover.

“Sonny (Kerr) won’t  be back for a few weeks and he’s been a big loss for us this season in the halves.”

Butler puts his team’s solid performances down to the efforts of the forwards and hopes they can do the same at the Giants.

“They have been our strength all season, but now, at this time of the year, I’m looking to our backs to also step up and do their job,” Butler added.

“It’s no secret we’ve started games slowly and errors have crept in, we have been working this week on correcting those and a lot of defensive work has gone in. Ball in hand is another element of training, so we will be ready for the challenge.”

Giants coach Sheehan has injuries to contend with as well. “But at the end of the day we have to make it work with what is available,” he said.

“This is the third time we have played them this season. Lost one, drawn one … it’s our turn.”

Sheehan said he had seen a change in attitude in recent weeks, with a dressing room of positive faces.

“It’s now a matter of how much they want it,” he added.

A few kilometres south at Blueforce Park, North Beach will be without key halves Jeremy Wallace and Kade McDonald, both injured in last week’s loss to Fremantle, but coach Phil Douche is confident in his squad depth to get the job done against South Perth.

“We have a few out, Jeremy and Kade,  captain Keiran Tarrant and Josh Papworth, maybe half a dozen, but those stepping up I have a lot of confidence in,” Douche said.

Trent Trotter and Tyron Cranston return, Trotter a major influence at dummy half for the Sea Eagles with Douche mentioning the recent performances of Gersh Adams as a big plus for his side.

“Gersh has been awesome, and we have a few others who have stepped up,” Douche said.

South Perth, fresh from their win over Rockingham last week, know they will have to execute better if they are to take the points.

“We were happy to get the two points last week, but there’s a lot of improvement needed and defence is the key,” assistant coach Paul Brown said.

“We’re two ahead of North Beach right now and if we can win that will give us some breathing space to get that all-important second spot where you get a second chance in the playoffs.”

Corbyn Daniels and Josh Adu are both in the centres with Tyler Thomas switching to the wing, but there are doubts over half Jayden Hocking  and backrower Ethan Gourgaud. Both will face late fitness tests.

“Ethan has been our best on field for the past few games, so we’re hoping he, and Jayden, will be fit,” Brown said.

Both teams are also playing for the Blueforce Cup, the second time the teams have faced off for it after South Perth won it in a tight contest last year.

And adding some more interest are some great milestones with North Beach stalwart Adam Roy celebrating 150 Games, and Jarrad Smith making his 100th appearance for the Lions.