2024 NRL WA Premiership Preview – Round 01

By Peter Rowe 

 

There’s nothing like a grand final rematch to kick off a new season of rugby league in WA, and that is exactly what will happen on Saturday afternoon when reigning premiers North Beach Sea Eagles host the Fremantle Roosters in round one of the NRLWA Fuel to Go and Play Premiership at  Charles Riley Reserve. 

 

The Roosters will need no reminding of the score back in September when the Sea Eagles won a dramatic finale in golden point 19-18, as they plan to start the new season with a win.

 

But Sea Eagles coach Phil Douche has shuffled his pack for 2024 with a very different team to the one that won so dramatically last year.

“We have a few new faces and a lot of young talent we want to give a chance to,” Douche said.

 

Darius Rogers, at 17, will make his debut along with former Auckland rep player Korey Craig in the halves.

 

Craig, who was also a target for South Perth, chose North Beach and Douche is excited at what he has seen.

 

“He’s quick, and we have Roydon Gillett returning in the centres as well so it’s a very different team to last season,” Douche added.

 

Rogers is the younger brother of Brisbane Bronco Josh Rogers and Douche wants to give youth a chance early in the campaign.

 

“You don’t win premierships this early, so yes, I want to see what some of our up-and-coming kids can do. They have impressed me in pre-season, so it’s now their chance.”

 

Halfback Jeremy Wallace will miss the opening few rounds with a knee injury, as Douche hopes for a winning start. 

 

“I know what Fremantle will bring and I keep hearing they are coming for us, we’ll be ready,” he said.

 

The Roosters will give a debut to brothers Luke David-Wells and Benny Talamaivo as they start their campaign missing key personnel.

 

“FIFO and injuries have affected our selections, but we will always be there for the fight,” a confident captain Duane Butler said.

 “We’ve lost Sonny Kerr with a leg injury and Taipa Graham with a fractured elbow, and Bjorn Crotty is also sidelined, so we might look a bit lightweight but we’re Fremantle and we always turn up.”

 

Paora Kemp has stepped back from regular football for family reasons and with a few others working away, Butler admitted they were ‘short on troops’.

 

“But it’s April and we have a long season ahead of us, so we know we will improve.”

 

A few kilometres north, Joondalup Giants will be another club with new faces as they host South Perth Lions at Admiral Park.

 

The Giants lost out to North Beach in the semi-finals last year, but as many as five or six of the team that day will not figure this time around due to work commitments.

 

Taurean Sheehan will once again lead the charge, with a host of newcomers around him after what he called a ‘challenging’ off-season.

 

One major plus for the Giants will be the early return of halfback Gus Marshall, who had indicated during the off season he would be hanging up his boots.

 American Travis Haney will start at fullback with new captain Joel Irvine leading the pack.

 

“FIFO has hit us this week, so there are a few missing, but that gives us the chance to test out some of out youngsters,” Sheehan said.

 

“Our goal is to use the first six weeks to get in the grind, keep our game plan relatively simple and stay in the contest.”

 

South Perth will travel north with several new faces of their own, although stalwarts Eddie Proudler and Harry DeBique will anchor them in the halves. 

Corbyn Daniels, who starred in the few games he played last season, will start at fullback, with Jared Smith at hooker, replacing FIFO worker Caleb Norton.

 

Team Manager Paul Brown expects to face a big Joondalup pack and a physical game. 

 

“We have to match them physically if we are to come away with the points,” Brown said.

 

“Our expectations are we can win and it would be good to start the new season in a positive frame of mind.”

 

Former player-coach Daniel Green is still 50-50 with Brown hoping he will be ready to add something in the middles and  teenager Jordan Tumoana will be on the wing alongside debutant, from union, 19-year-old Dela Kanawale.

 

Tere Cameron-Ramea has bulked up over the summer and he will be a positive in the second row, along with captain Ethan Gourgaud.

 

The other club in the Premiership, the Rockingham Sharks, have the bye.