2024 NRL WA Premiership Preview – Round 08

By PETER ROWE

 

Wet weather will play a major part in deciding results this weekend as four teams chase points in round eight of the NRLWA Fuel to Go and Play Premiership.

 

Rockingham Sharks travel the short distance up the Kwinana Freeway to play the Fremantle Roosters at Treeby, while Joondalup travel a few kilometres south to face the North Beach Sea Eagles.

 

And while all four believe they can win, they all know how the recent wild weather could be a deciding factor.

 

“It’s all about ball retention and control,” Rockingham coach Tom Murphy said. “It looks like being our first game in the wet for a long time, so whoever holds on to the ball the best, will probably win.

 

“For us it’s also about strong defence and that’s something we have been working on this week.

 

“Fremantle are a very good side and they are capable of putting back-to-back tries on you – so it’s crucial we turn up for 80 minutes.

 

“Losing to Joondalup two weeks ago was a wake-up call and the bye has helped us reset our priorities.”

 

Murphy knows the game is likely to be another physical encounter and welcomes back a few players after that loss at the Giants. Ben Bolth returns in the forwards, but fellow middle Sam Pera is still struggling with a rib injury.


Photo – Libby McMillan

“We have a few outs and a few ins and a few I’m not sure about until Saturday,” Murphy said, keeping his team selection close to his chest.

 

Fremantle will also see a few changes to the side that defeated North Beach last week.

 

Centre Joe Po’uhila is away working, as is Tarin Katu, but Taipa Graham returns along with Cooper Sanders and potentially Luke-David Wells Talamaivao and brother Ben Wells-Talamaivao.

 

“We are expecting another intense and physical game,”  injured captain Duane Butler said.

 

“We gave the boys Tuesday off because of the awful weather but they still had some fitness work to complete, so we’ll be ready.”

 

“To win we have to minimalise our mistakes, complete sets and capitalise on their errors.

 

“Last week against North Beach we probably played about 55 minutes of the game – this week our target is a full 60.”

 

Staying error free is also the target of North Beach as they host a revitalised Joondalup at Charles Riley Reserve.

 

Having recovered from their loss at Fremantle, Douche said his players have responded ‘very positively’  and while disappointed with the result, have learnt valuable lessons.

 

“We still have to learn to respect the ball and manage field possession better,” he said. “But I have some young players here and all are eager to learn.

 

“Our kick and chase is something we have been working on and I’m happy with the response I’m getting from my players.”

 

Drew Lloyd and Bowman Stein return for the Sea Eagles, allowing Ryan Woolley to return to his usual centre spot in a side that knows they have to be alert to manage what Joondalup are capable of throwing at them.

 

“They (Joondalup) have improved a lot, so we know it won’t be easy,” Douche added.

 

Brad Sparrow is a major out for the Giants, snapping a tendon in his hand during the win at South Perth and both River Colman and Trent Lawrence are away working, so Joondalup will again shuffle the pack and will wait on a couple of late fitness tests before announcing their team.

“Last week was very positive, but this is another week and another game and a different team,”  club veteran Taurean Sheehan said.

 

“Yes the win was good, but this is a five team competition, so we can’t get ahead of ourselves.”

 

Sheehan admitted there is always motivation when they meet and accepted that North Breach would probably be the pre-game favourites.

 

“But I quite like being the underdog,” he said.

 

“And the weather forecast looks interesting, lots of rain. That could be a big leveller.”