NRL WA 2022 Fuel To Go & Play Premiership Kicks Off Its 75th Year

By Pete Rowe

Rugby League in Western Australia celebrates its 75th birthday this week as the 2022 NRL WA Fuel to Go and Play Premiership kicks off with a grand final rematch between the North Beach Sea Eagles and the South Perth Lions.

Back then, on April 24, 1948, Fremantle played South Perth and Cottesloe faced up against Perth.

A week earlier a representative game took place on Perth’s Esplanade as players from five clubs, Fremantle, South Perth, Cottesloe, Perth and Palmyra formed two teams, The Blues and The Reds.

The Reds (Perth Districts players) beat Fremantle (The Blues) 25-17 as 34 brave souls played out a thriller in front of about 3000 spectators on a sunny Saturday lunchtime.

Many had never seen the 13-a-side code before, but from that day rugby league was alive in the West.

Palmyra didn’t last the course and pulled out of the competition before it began, leaving four clubs, to contest the inaugural season, won by South Perth, tomorrow’s opponents of North Beach in the 2022 season opener.

The Sea Eagles, who won last year’s premiership in their 60th year, are hoping to repeat the success of 2021 and welcome back Jeremy Wallace after a year away.

Coach Phil Douche has built a new squad for the campaign, adding former Western Reds star Jarrad Millar’s son Bailey at fullback and young wing-centre Ryan Woolley to his side.

“Last year celebrating our 60th anniversary and winning the Premiership was amazing,” Douche said.

“But 2022 is another year and I know all our games will be tough. It’s a small six-team comp, so we have to be well drilled to match the intensity every week.”

Douche knows his round one opponents Souths will be ready.

“They are always tough to beat,” he said.

Souths will be missing players for the clash (injuries and FIFO), but coach Daniel Green is upbeat.

Harry Debique  and Nick Holiday have returned to New Zealand and NSW, but exciting back-rower Jayden Hocking has returned from spells at the Newcastle Knights and Manly Sea Eagles.

“We’ve got a good squad this year, recruited well and want to go one better than last year,” he said.

The Lions were beaten by a penalty in extra time by the Sea Eagles in last year’s grand final, something Green admits was tough to take, but is confident they have moved on from.

“I’m sure that final will give us some motivation to go one better and we like to focus on doing the basics to a high standard which I hope will stand us in good stead,” he said.

In other games in this year’s six team premiership, Joondalup Giants meet Fremantle Roosters and Rockingham Sharks play the Ellenbrook Rabbitohs, back in the premiership after a two-year absence. Both games kick-off at 3.30pm.

The Giants have lost coach John Harbin but under new mentor Taurean Sheehan, the NRL WA Ken Allen Medal winner last year, will be ready for a battle against early favourites for the 2022 premiership Fremantle.

Rockingham welcome former NRL player Darren Shaw back as coach and are looking to a returning junior to boost their campaign after a poor 2021.

Keelyn Tuuta-Edwards left the Sharks in 2015 to pursue a career with St George in the NRL and later in Queensland, but returns to lead a young Sharks side, who will have to be on their best form to take the points from the Rabbitohs.