We may only be in Round 5, but Saturday’s WA Smarter Than Smoking Premiership clash between the Fremantle Roosters and South Perth Lions already looms as an important fixture for both sides.
The Roosters (2-1) sit above the Lions (2-1) on points differential, with both sides knowing a win will distance themselves from their Premiership rivals.
Fremantle come into this fixture fresh off the bye round, while South Perth will be buoyed by last weekend’s 50-6 win over the Willagee Bears – a result which lifted them into the top four.
The Roosters will present the Lions with a much more difficult challenge on Saturday, however, with South Perth’s Will Smith aware his side must be on top form to down the reigning premiers.
“Losing to North Beach at our home ground [a few weeks ago] hurt,” Smith said. “If we can beat Freo at their home ground it’s going to be big.”
Smith, who joined the Lions from the Rockingham Sharks during the off-season hopes a move from the centres to fullback will result in him recapturing the form which saw him named Player of the Match at last month’s ANZAC Challenge.
“I haven’t been feeling too confident in the centres, but the coach has made the decision to put me at fullback for this game,” Smith said.
“Fullback is where I feel the most comfortable and where I feel I can make the most impact.
“I can’t wait to be at the back again and am looking forward to what I can create for the boys this weekend.”
Smith’s move to fullback means a reshuffle within the Lions ranks, with Kade McDonald moving to the wing and Connor Hudson into the centres.
“We’ve got a pretty wide range of skills there,” Smith said.
“Connor’s a big asset to the team – he’s a tough guy who you can chuck anywhere.”
The Roosters, meanwhile, will be without prop Mitch Kerr while Duane Butler and Raana Peakman return from the side who defeated Willagee before the bye round.
“Freo always like to throw it out wide so we need to focus on our slide defence,” Smith said.
“Line speed is going to be a big thing.”
In other games around the grounds, the North Beach Sea Eagles will look to make it a perfect five wins in a row when they host the Rockingham Sharks, while the Ellenbrook Rabbitohs’ will be desperate to snap their two-game skid when they travel to take on a judiciary-affected Joondalup Giants.