2024 NRL WA Premiership Preview – Round 05

By PETER ROWE

Rockingham player-coach Tom Murphy is asking for more of the same on Saturday night as the Sharks go head-to-head with the Fremantle Roosters in another NRLWA Fuel to Go and Play Premiership classic.

Round five of the 2024 season has seen both sides emerge as early frontrunners with the Sharks edging ahead after their impressive 32-16 win over North Beach last weekend.

But the Roosters are hot on their heels and a decisive 44-22 victory over South Perth has seen them start to show the form everyone knows they are capable of.

“Fremantle are a big side, led in the forwards by Jules (Wilson-Wyllie) and Bjorn (Crotty),” Murphy said.

“They can easily turn it on and put three back-to-back tries on you, so we know we are in for a battle and we have to be there for the whole 80 minutes.”

Rockingham will be without halfback John McLaughlin (broken arm) and Andrew Jeffrey (bicep) but have handy replacements in players like Kelvin Coleman, capable of winning games.

Photo – Libby McMillan

“Kelvin and Keelyn (Tuutu-Edwards) were solid last week, and our defence was good – we still need to adjust and work on a few things, but it is still early in the season,” Murphy added.

“We need to focus on ourselves and what we do best, but we’re heading in the right direction.”

Ben Bolth will return to add some punch to the middles, with Murphy expected to make a couple of minor changes to a team that has started the season so well.

“They’re on fire,” was Roosters’ captain Duane Butler’s reaction to that early season form.

“Tom is an experienced player and coach, so they are looking good and it will be a physical game for sure.

“Everyone wants to get one over on us, so every game is big, but while it’s good to see progress, we all know you don’t win premierships in May.”

The Roosters will be without centres Ben Wells-Talamaivao and Joe Pouhila, but have such strength in depth whoever replaces them will still be a handful.

“We’ve been going full contact on Tuesdays in training and then adding skills to fine-tune on Thursdays,” Butler said.

“We need to iron out a few things still. Dropped balls and trying to score on every set. We need to calm down a bit and understand our structures. That said, it’s improving every week.”

Saturday’s weather forecast could see some rain, with showers expected and Butler knows that could be crucial.

“Yep, we need to hold on to the ball – that’s a given,” he added.  “We don’t want silly mistakes letting us down.”

Coach Delane Edwards is likely to name himself in the squad for a game both sides want to win to maintain early season consistency.

“We need to turn up and muscle up,” Butler emphasised, a comment echoed by Murphy.

“It’s a big test and we need to be in the fight until the end,” Murphy said of the game of the round that kicks-off at Port Kennedy Sportsplex at 5.30pm.

Way north, in Joondalup the Giants return to action after a bye break to take on the Sea Eagles in a derby game neither side wants to lose.

“It’s always physical when we play them,” North Beach coach Phil Douche said.

“It’s a derby so there’s something extra in the game and I can guarantee it will be full bore and very physical.”

Douche has held ‘very honest’ conversations with his players following their home loss to Rockingham, admitting the loss was hard to take at home, but adding that everyone understood the errors and were prepared to move forward.

“It was an open and positive chat and we’ll make a few changes and adjust. It’s still only May, so there’s everything to play for,” he added.

Young halfback Darius Rogers, who’s older brother Josh gets his NRL chance with the Brisbane Broncos this weekend, is missing, away on Combined Affiliated States representative duties and Douche will also be without a couple of others because of FIFO commitments, but the Sea Eagles have depth to cover.

Photo – Carmel Potter-Green

“It’s the nature of the game now, with players working away, we have to learn to adjust and manage it,” Douche said.

“We still have a strong squad and we will be ready for whatever Joondalup throw at us.”

Several of the Giants squad stepped down to play reserves last week as they had the bye, so they won’t be rusty, far from it.

“It’s important to get that first win as we’ve come close in previous rounds,” influential halfback Taurean Sheehan said.

“We are close to full strength, still missing a couple, but we’re ready and we know it will a great derby.”

River Colman returns at hooker, a move that will give the home side a strong presence around the ruck and Payden Porter will lead a strong forward pack.

“We’re excited we’ve got troops back and we’ve been working on a few things this week,” Sheehan said.

“We also know how dangerous North Beach can be and if we don’t compete around the ruck they will make us pay.”

Photo – Janelle Saunderson