FUEL TO GO & PLAY – RESERVE GRADE – MID SEASON REVIEW
While we are trying to show love to all our senior grade this year, lets have a look at where Reserve Grade shapes up with 6 rounds to go.
1st – North Beach Sea Eagles – 18 Points
What can I say about this side. Its epic. Size. Speed. Power. Experience. Youth. It has talent and flair in spades, while also being fit and well drilled. Composure and the ability to turn a game on its head. Its a very big assignment for any reserve grade side against this group. Their closest margin are a pair of 40-10 point victories against the South Perth Lions. Led by the never aging Jason Godecke, who still may be the quickest player in the state over 20 metres, they would be short priced favorites to go back to back this season. With Phil Douche at the helm, they have also added an analytical edge, with his purposeful coaching and tactics key to their flying game.
Strength – Class – In every position on the field, the Sea Eagles have it. Whether is in the halves with Debba Cook, at hooker with the returning Hume, or the “I’m still 20 years old” James Blake in the front row, they just ooze class. First grade squads in recent years would be envious of their roster.
Potential Flaw – Complacency – Its literally the only thing I could think of. Can they be beaten? The answer is yes. Will they? Well they always say a first loss is always around the corner. People were saying Penrith were unbeatable earlier this year, and now look.
Key Player – Jason Godecke – Seems like he has been around an age, but still possesses incredible speed and toughness. Playing in the lock forward position these days, he is enjoying the freedom of going and doing whatever he feels like in the middle and is a nightmare for tired forwards.
Impressive Youngster – Bailey Millar – Seven tries in two games. Yes its on the end of an epic backline and forward pack. But as his centre Mitchell Wade-Whalan says, “I just get him in the clear and then start celebrating”. An accomplished finisher, he is fast with silky running and at a tender 17 years old has so much more to come.
2nd – South Perth Lions – 12 Points
And yet another Lions team setting the benchmark close to the top of the table, as a club they are always incredibly strong. With the experience Cameron back at the helm, they are the most likely of the bunch to knock off the Sea Eagles. A slight hiccup on the weekend when they were beaten by the win-less Giants is a bit concerning, but they continue to be a very hard side to beat. Obviously your reserve grade is always affected by the grade above and the Lions are still covering many injuries and absences. With Kamso, Klyn and Surjan creating an exciting spine, the Lions will time their run at the end of the year to have one last crack.
Strength – Pedigree – South Perth reserve grade are never the flashiest side. Are the biggest forward pack. They don’t blow teams off the field. But as in all grades at the club, the Lions know how to do one thing well. And that’s win. I can’t remember the last time a South Perth side missed the finals in any grade. Good teams find a way to win when they play badly. South Perth are a good team.
Potential Flaw – Outside Back Depth – Similar to their First Grade side, their outside back depth is not as strong as it once was. Young newcomers such as Noel Samuel and the ever reliable Akua Roberts are doing a good job, but neither are game breakers at the moment.
Key Player – Te Whariki-A-Rangi Hulena – Affectionately known as Blaze, he is a very experienced player. Comfortable anywhere in the backs and halves, he has fast footwork and great game sense. With ability to control a game, he will be looked at to provide a spark to this Lions team.
Impressive Youngster – Peliata Fisiihoi – Young Peliata is a special player. Blessed with great strength and timing, he is a defensive dynamo. Add in his quick feet and ability to push through the line, he will be a first grade mainstay in the years to come.
3rd – Fremantle Roosters – 10 Points
I find the Roosters in reserve grade team very hard to watch. On their day they are brilliant. The lines of Ruamai Erueti, Filimoni Tokoni and Rima Lose can destroy a side with silky skills and footwork. Add in the capable Te Hainui Parkinson and Dale Stringer when they are on, leading the team around, and you think “Wow the Roosters look good”. Then they have days where they are awful. The passes don’t stick. The tackles start slipping up. And they are in quicksand and spiraling out of control. Dynamic when at their best, they will need to be completely switched on to knock off the top two this year.
Strength – Flair – The Roosters do not lack flair. The ability to harness it correctly or at the right times may be a bit of a problem, but they have plenty of players that can turn it on. And from anywhere. Teams can’t fall asleep on the Roosters as if you give them an inch they will definitely take a mile.
Potential Flaw – Big Fit Forwards – A common problem to have, the Roosters lack some really dominant middles. Jaimeson Riggs is a good player, and Rihari Clarkin plays well above his weight. But they are missing a dominant big, with speed and fitness to take them up a notch.
Key Player – Rihari Clarkin – The Roosters reserve grade captain, Rihari is a great reserve grade player. Most weeks playing a full game in reserve grade and then backing up for Premiership, he is all about effort on effort and normally comes off the field with his hair a mess, jersey with mud and dirt all over it, and cuts and bruises all over his body. A warrior for the Roosters.
Impressive Youngster – Cooper Sanders – There are a couple of kids who are coming in to their own, but Sanders is proving he can cut it in the Men’s. A tough second rower, he puts me in the frame of Aiden Guerra, where he just gets his job done no matter what. Already tasted first grade this year, he will continue to improve and will be a player of the future.
4th – Rockingham Sharks – 8 Points
The Rockingham Sharks are a team with an interesting conundrum. They have a large bunch of kids coming through, with different levels of skill. They have a core group of veterans, who are probably a bit past their time, but can still play. The question is, can they get a side on the field that can take advantage of this unique blend of old and new to be a threat this year? With injury and outs crippling the top side, their reserve grade is struggling to find continuity as well, with a lot of players playing both grades some weeks. Can coach Ian Wood get them back on track? Can he get back on the field as well to make a difference?
Strength – Talent – While not always getting the results in first grade, Rockingham are normally a very intimidating lower grade side. Usually boasting impressive youngsters with size and skill, the likes of Parmenter and Eric Koroa can hurt sides.
Potential Flaw – Belief – I don’t know if the Sharks believe they can beat the top sides this year. While player availability has been an issue, it seems sometimes at a certain point in the game, they flick the off switch and let the other team dictate terms. Would like to seem them grind a bit more and not give in.
Key Player – Josh Neal – Josh is a super experienced campaigner. Comfortable anywhere in the backs, he is a complete footballer. Competitive and tenacious, he is one player that will never give up and will work and yell till the final whistle.
Impressive Youngster – Nathan Boffey – Young Boffey has come into grade this year and is impressing the Sharks with his commitment and no nonsense attitude. Am outside back, Boffey has good balance and a level head. While not a superstar at the moment, he is a good player who won’t let anyone down.
5th – Joondalup Giants – 6 Points
Okay so the Giants have been disappointing this year. And yes they have had excuses and injury and outs hurt them, but so has everyone else (except North Beach who are boasting two first grade teams). But they are definitely a team on the up. Their last two games, a last minute loss to Fremantle and then a last minute win against the Lions, show their team is on the improve. So that begs the question. Are the Giants going to improve enough to not just make the 4, but challenge their rivals the Sea Eagles? As the troops return for Premiership, their reserve grade stocks have slowly risen. And its not ridiculous to think they could be the Phoenix rising from the ashes this year.
Strength – Experience – It wasn’t a fluke that the Giants looked good in the final stages the last few weeks. The returning bookends Adam Smith & Connor Favell, indomitable lock Nick Farrell and class back Dylan Davis back in the frame, means the Giants have improved dramatically in a short time.
Potential Flaw – Spine – Now while first grade has settled, the reserve grade are still not sure. Lionel Byrnes has played okay, but won’t hold the key to their fortunes. Experimenting with Scott, Wanahi and others at hooker, they will hope at least to have classy Kyran Namana-Tahere stay at halfback to lead the team around.
Key Player – Adam Smith – A lot rests on the big shoulders of Smith this season. Extremely experienced, Adam is a tough, no nonsense front rower who is all about the one percenters. While he won’t win you a game, he tries his hard out and leads by example. Incredibly fit, he can almost play the full 70 in the middle.
Impressive Youngster – Brenton Scott – Sitting on the edge of premiership and reserve grade, Brenton is one of the safest players in the competition. All effort, he knows his role and executes week to week to the best of his ability. While not big, he uses his body effectively and is a tough assignment with and without the ball.