2024 NRL WA Premiership Preview – Round 02

By PETER ROWE 

A summer revamp and a shift of focus that chairman Brett McMillan has described as “culturally refreshing” sees a new-look Rockingham Sharks take to the field on Saturday, kicking off their season and round two of the NRLWA Fuel to Go and Play Premiership against the Joondalup Giants – the team they played back in 2004 in their first ever season in the competition.

The Sharks had a young 17-year-old making his debut that day by the name of Peter Worth and the same name will appear on the team sheet this weekend as “Pump Daddy” takes to the field to mark 200 senior games for the club.

“An amazing achievement,” player coach Tom Murphy said. “Let’s hope we can mark it with a win. He is the heart and soul of this club.”

The Sharks, under former Queensland Cup stalwart Murphy, have spent the offseason rebuilding, adding players to a number of key positions, both in the backs and the forwards.

“It’s been a really solid preseason and now it comes down to effort on the field in our first game,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he watched last weekend’s games and was impressed with what he saw and knows the game against the Giants will be tough.

“They are usually a big side and have some quality in the halves and at hooker so it will be a battle.”

The Sharks have recruited well over the summer, bringing in halfback John McLoughlin from the Sunshine Coast – who Murphy has faith in.

“Johnny (McLaughlin) can lead us around the park and has a very good kicking game.”

Add a returning Andrew Jeffery at hooker, a fit again middle Ben Bolth and exciting new back-rower Zac McEntyre and the Sharks are brimming with game winning talent.

“We need to transition from training paddock to game mode now, run hard, tackle hard and play for each other.”

Joondalup travel south after grabbing a point in a 26-all draw with South Perth last weekend, knowing they will be in a battle.

New coach Darren Smith was impressed with his team’s efforts in round one but knows they will have to step up again this weekend.

“Rockingham are a bit of an unknown as they have yet to play this season, but we know they are a tough side to beat,” Smith said.

“We’ve got a few changes because of work commitments, but River Coleman returns, as does big forward Dom Fidow-Kele off the bench, so I’m positive.

“I was impressed with our resilience and belief against South Perth and Gus Marshall back in the halves was a big in for us – he probably has the best kicking game in the comp.”

Young Jack Bullard, who impressed against South Perth, retains his spot in the middles and Zien Carruth, who travels every week from Kalgoorlie, will be an impact player off the bench. Mitch Haggard and Shane Harding return from FIFO in the centres and second row.

After last weekend’s win over Fremantle, North Beach will field a different team against the Lions at George Burnett Oval with coach Phil Douche keeping his cards close to his chest after losing fullback Bailey Millar through suspension and young half Darius Rogers to a combined Affiliated States youth trial in the Eastern States.

Millar copped the ban for a lifting charge on Fremantle’s Tuakana Rangihaeata in round one, so Kiwi newcomer Corey Craig will drop to fullback with Douche not saying who will partner Englishman Ted Shand in the halves.

“I’m still undecided there,” Douche said. “I’ll make the call later.”

Douche is well aware of his side’s poor record at South Perth in recent seasons and has been working on ensuring his team keep’s their momentum after last weekend’s impressive win.

“The last two times we have played there they have beaten us, so we will be working on a few areas I have spotted from last week and making sure complacency doesn’t creep in.”

The Lions will be without fullback Corbyn Daniels (shoulder) and halfback Eddie Proudler for the game, with team manager Paul Brown admitting his team will look different to the one that took to the field at Joondalup last week.

“We’ve watched the North Beach video and know we will have to match them physically in the middles early to stay in the game,” Brown said.

“We need to get people around the ball early to prevent offloads and make tackles stick.

“They spread the ball well on second and third tackle so we need to be ready for that, and we’ve been working this week to iron out the drop balls we incurred in last week’s game.”

South Perth will rely on Harry Debique in the halves to drive them around the park with Caleb Norton the probable replacement for Proudler.

“We’ve both got a few out from round one so I think it’s going to bed an interesting game,” Brown added.

Fremantle Roosters have the bye this weekend.