NRL WA Premiership Preview 2024 – North Beach Sea Eagles

By Peter Rowe

The new NRLWA Fuel to Go and Play Premiership season is upon us and PETER ROWE begins his annual preview of what we might expect from another blockbuster season with a close look at the reigning premiers, North Beach Sea Eagles.

After a slow start to pre-season, North Beach coach Phil Douche has seen his plans come together, describing recent sessions as ‘amazing’, as the 2023 premiers look to make it a hat-trick of grand final appearances in 2024.

A ‘few’ outs and a ‘few’ ins is how the meticulous Douche described his preparations.

“I guess it’s the same at most clubs,” Douche said, adding that FIFO rostering will also add another dimension to his team selections this season.

‘Out’ has seen lock Adam Roy retire and the influential Kade McDonald and Jaylen Grey depart – McDonald to Europe and Grey to Queensland where he recently made his debut in the Q Cup for The Capras.

And ‘In’: 2013 premiership winner Roydon Gillett returns from New Zealand in the centres, Douche fending off a late approach from Fremantle for his services, with Tom Reed, a Beach junior, also returning after a spell in Queensland.

Reed, a prop, will add some much needed ‘oomph’ to the Sea Eagles, an area Douche conceded was an issue last year.

“Mostly down to FIFO commitments and injuries, we just didn’t have the depth there,” he said. “For a while last year we were a couple of props short, so we have moved to ensure we don’t have that problem in 2024.”

And Bowman Stein returns from injury, a player who can easily fit in at nine or 13, pairing up with Trent Trotter in the spine to offer options.

“It’s good to have him back,” Douche said, adding the club had also picked up a few new faces, mostly outside backs, who have excited him in training.

“A couple from union and I’m keen to give them a go,” he said.

And with the departure of Grey and McDonald, we may see a different shape to the Sea Eagles in 2024.

“Maybe, maybe not,” Douche said, trying hard to keep his options under wraps until the season is under way.

“With new centres and backs I want to see how preseason progresses and then a trial match will help me make a call,” he said.

“With Skinny (Grey) and Kade, we knew how their strengths and how to set up, the early ball, hitting the line, those sorts of things and it worked, but I’m keen to see what a new back line can offer.”

And opposition?

“Well, I can see from social media posts there’s been movement at a few clubs, so I’m taking nothing for granted.

“Fremantle will be tough. I suspect they will want to get one over us in Round One, for that grand final loss. That’s natural.

“They will be tough to beat as always, I think they have had just one poor season in the past eight or nine, their consistency is there for all to see and they manage to maintain the same level and the same squad year in, year out. Very little player churn, it’s amazing.”

Douche was also keen to note how other clubs have strengthened. Does he see his team with a target on their backs?

“No, I don’t go in for that. We all know each other, it’s a small comp. It will be competitive though,” he said.

“I’m hearing Joondalup has lost a few, but I know come game day they will be tough – they always are – so we will prepare like we always have, for a battle.

“South Perth have a new coach, eager to show what he can build and Rockingham have recruited well through the off season.

“That said, it’s really hard to predict in pre-season who will be the toughest challenge – until we all have a few games under our belt, it’s all level.

And can the Sea Eagles make it a three-peat of grand final appearances? “Why not.”