By Peter Rowe
Groundhog Day is a phrase being used to describe the possible outcome of Saturday’s NRLWA Fuel to Go and Play Premiership grand final between the Fremantle Roosters and the North Beach Sea Eagles.
A re-run of last year’s final that saw the Roosters triumph over the Sea Eagles could see the same again, but not if you are Phil Douche, the highly articulate coach of North Beach.
Douche knows his side are the underdogs, with most backing Fremantle to repeat, but he’s happy with that.
“I’ve been a coach of a favourite and understand the stress that can come with that, so I’m very happy where I am this week and so are my team, “ Douche said.
“I know we have a team that can win this game, but I also know we have to earn it. Fremantle will turn up wanting it as much as us.”
Fremantle captain Duane Butler certainly does. Butler took time out from training on Wednesday night to be awarded the Ken Allen Medal, WA’s Player of the Year.
And he knows the season is far from over, there’s still one more job to be done.
The Roosters haven’t rested since winning their semifinal on August 27 – they trained four times last week and five this week preparing for the big day.
And they desperately want the day to be an early birthday present for player-coach Delane Edwards, who will turn 38 next Tuesday.
“It would be great to see Del take out another win, but it’s also about the new boys we’ve drafted in this year – five of them – it’s their first grand final, so it’s for them as well,” Butler said.
For Nick Riggs, Harrison Sanders, Jaydon Solomon, Cooper Sanders and Jules Wyllie it’s something new in the red, white and blue.
Butler said the mood in the camp has been positive all week but they also know how dangerous the opposition can be.
“We can’t be complacent, we know we have to stick to the game plan. We’ve not really played what I would see as a perfect game yet this season. Maybe 60 minutes. We’ve got to get to 80,” Butler said.
“They have some quality and we respect that. Crano (Tyron Cranston) played with Delane at the Reds. They have a lot of respect for each other.
“Crano has a good kicking game we need to watch. Then there’s Trotter around the ruck, really dangerous. Jeremy Wallace and Kade McDonald, and of course there’s Bailey Miller. And big Gersh Adams in the forwards.
“We know we are in for a big game.”
Douche also knows who the Fremantle danger men are, picking out Jaydon Solomon as one to watch.
“If they control the ruck it takes the pressure off fullback Paora Kemp and Delane to create chances,” he said.
“They’ve got two big centres and we have to match them one-on-one.
“They have improved their kicking game and we have to be ready for that as well. I think they have become more expansive as the season has progressed and that comes when you have a settled team and a core from which to develop from.”
Douche also feels he hasn’t had the luxury of a full squad to choose from in their previous meetings, something this weekend he does have.
“It’s the first time I have everyone available,” he admitted.
British prop James Green is back in contention, as is Shane Gillham and Josh Papworth.
“We now have to execute,” Douche added.
“Execute in attack and make the right selections. Good speed around the ruck, start the game well and keep our penalties to a minimum.
“What we don’t want is giving up too many penalties and then getting fatigued defending them.”
Fine tuning is a phrase Butler used to describe where his side are at.
“It’s those little extra percentages that will count,” he said.
“We want to win and we know they will want the same. Let battle commence.”