2024 NRL WA Premiership Preview – Round 04

By PETER ROWE 

  

All roads lead to Charles Riley Reserve on Saturday afternoon where the NRLWA Fuel to Go and Play Premiership’s two unbeaten sides clash in a game that is impossible to predict.

 

Reigning premiers North Beach Sea Eagles host Rockingham Sharks (3.30pm)  with both coaches keeping their final selections under wraps, keen to spring a surprise come kick-off.

 

And both have heaped praise on each other in the lead-up to the game, expecting a game of high intensity full of passion and skill.

 

“The Sharks have some strike power around the edges and that is something we have to be aware of,”  North Beach coach Phil Douche said after his side trained well on Tuesday night.

 

Douche will be without gun centre Roydon Gillett, who suffered a nasty thigh injury in last weekend’s Anzac representative game that required 22 stitches, and utility Dean Morgan, but welcomes back forward Shame Gillham and Bowman Stein to a side that arguably has the best spine in the competition.

 

“Apart from those two we’re at full strength,” Douche admitted. “But it’s good to get Bowie and Shane back. It’s going to be a physical game, especially in the middles.”

 

Douche was keeping selection options close to his chest but admitted he was happy with what was available to choose from.

 

“We have been working on ironing out a few defensive issues and a couple of options in attack, I won’t make a call on my centres until before game time,” he said.

 

“Rockingham have a lot of different options this season in attack, so we have to be ready.  Their player-coach Tom Murphy is a danger at lock and they have some quality centres.”

 

Murphy was also quick to praise Douche and his team. 

 

“They are reigning premiers and we respect that. They have some real quality in their side, with flair and speed. We need to match them in those areas,” he said.

 

The Sharks welcome back Andrew Jeffery at hooker – ‘a big in’ according to Murphy.

 

“This is a big test for us,” he admitted. “I’m looking forward to testing ourselves against the strongest team in the competition. They have two young halves everyone is talking about and they can do damage around the edges, but we have some good players as well. We will be up for the challenge.”

 

Both teams have in recent games dominated early, so who gets first blood on Saturday could determine the destination of the points. 

 

Can the Sharks control the all-action pace of Darius Rogers and Korey Craig, with fullback Bailey Millar breaking the line?  Or will new halfback John McLaughlin, aided by the ruck play of Jeffery and the power of backrowers like Brandon White and Zac McEntyre dominate?

Photo – Libby McMillan 

It’s a battle that should ensure a big crowd on the northern beaches.

 

Further south at Treeby Fremantle will be keen to build on their win over Joondalup in round three when they host South Perth Lions in their first home game of the season.

 

The Roosters have spent the last fortnight working on ball work and adjusting their style of play after losing to North Beach in round one and just beating the Giants by a point in round three.

 

“It’s all about consistency and cutting out those stupid little errors,” captain Duane Butler said. 

 

“Missed tackles, loose carries, those silly hero one-out passes, we have yet to play a full 40 let alone 80 minutes. So we’ve been working in 10-minute blocks and building from there.

 

“It’s important we stay in the game for longer periods.”

 

Sonny Kerr returns in the halves, with former South Perth youngsters Luke David Wells Talamaivao and brother Ben Wells Talamaivao eager to play against their old club.

 

Bjorn Crotty is back to full fitness and will start in the forwards, among a strong pack that will look to dominate early up the middle.

 

Fullback Paora Kemp also returns with Butler admitting they have so many pushing for a first team spot, it’s giving coach Delane Edwards a headache.

 

“A nice headache though,” Butler added. “Yeah, we’ve got a full squad this week.”

 

South Perth’s injury dilemma has grown with halfback Eddie Proudler going under the surgeon’s knife on Wednesday after tearing his meniscus.

 

“We’re not sure how long he will be out yet,” team manager Paul Brown said. “Worst case scenario could be months, but I’m hoping it’s not that bad.”

 

The Lions will field six players under 19 for the clash, with veteran and club legend Daniel Green also missing with a cracked sternum.

 

“I feel like repeating myself every week,” Brown said. “But it is what is and on the day it’s still 13 v 13 on the field.”

 

Jared Smith is out with an ankle injury and Joey Halpin is 50-50 with a shoulder problem.

 

On the plus side Corbyn Daniels could return at fullback and Tim Noble is back in the reckoning.

Photo – Carmel Potter-Green 

“He’s asking for more and more minutes,” Brown said of Noble. “So that is really good to hear.”

 

Halfback Jayden Evans, a baggage handler at Perth Airport, will lead their attack and his darting runs should keep Fremantle on their toes.