With the smashing of a champagne bottle our Cash Converters West Coast Pirates 2018 season was launched at Ken Allen Field on Saturday. Although the match was billed as the under 18s SG Ball side versus the Pirates under 19s Team list read more like a possibles v probables, with many in the “under 19s” being SG Ball eligible players. It was these players with a point to prove that were among the most impressive as the possibles beat the probables 26-16. Players like Tye Saus, Jamie Vogler and Juan Ryan did their chances of playing SG Ball no harm with eye catching performances.

The under 19s got first use of the football and after a disjointed set of six Charlie Pulsford put up an ordinary mid-field bomb, but with no pressure on him at all SG Ball winger Brenton Scott dropped it cold and Tye Saus swooped on the ball before being run down by Kade Macdonald just metres from the under 18s line. The Under 19s set themselves up and shifted the ball to the left where Ricky Tuimoala stood up Yuri Taipeti to post first points.

Despite posting first points the under 19s continued to look fairly average bringing the ball out of their own end, giving the SG Ball lads a few opportunities to strike back. A poorly executed pass from Macdonald to winnger Billy Judge spoiled their first foray, but when Shandyn Moody invited them for another shot they worked over the middle third in the red zone before Devontay Tutai-Tauitu burrowed in low to score the first of the season for the SG Ball side and Tyler Hunt piloted over the easy conversion to give the under 18s the lead 6-4.

West Coast Pirates SG Ball coach Dan Manning would have been very happy with his sides set of 6 after scoring points, but what he wouldn’t have been happy with was the lazy defence from try scorer Tutai-Tauiti moments later in giving away an offside penalty. The under 19s then put together a poor set of 6 in an attacking position, however Port Hedland’s Jaiden Wilkinson came up with a simple error early in the under 18s next set to put his side back under pressure. Dan Manning would again have been fuming when a simple underneath pass from Pulsford to Hayden Hewatt Lawrence saw his sides defence crumble as the South Perth junior forced his way over the line to give the under 19s back the lead.

Enter Jamie Vogler! The man of the match for Rockingham in the under 16s grand final started to carve up the tiring under 18s side as he first made a bust out of dummy half to put them on the back foot, before diving over for a soft try from dummy half to give the under 19s a 16-6 lead. From this point in the match there was no better player on the field that Vogler.

The under 18s showed some fight and character as the big men in the under 19s showed signs of fatigue as well and it was the versatile Tamaho Tierney that blasted his way into the static defensive line before getting an around the corner offload to New Zealand Maori under 18s representative Zed Clark-Wright to dot down under the posts untouched right on halftime with the score at 16-10 in favour of the under 19s.

The SG Ball side needed to strike first in the second half, but a mistake from Billy Judge gave the under 19s first chance and it was Vogler again that set the tone breaking out of dummy half and finding plenty of space behind the ruck. They re-set with a strong run from Rakheem Edwards and his quick play the ball allowed Vogler to pick out a lazy A-Defender close to the line and dive over to get his second.

Down by 10 points and a shift of Kade Macdonald into first receiver seemed to bring him into the game a bit better. First of all it was a towering Macdonald kick off that saw Jayden Solomon spill the ball and then Macdonald created a 3 on 2 on the short side and summed up the situation perfectly to put Brenton Scott in the corner.

With just a 6 point margin the under 18s did seem to be getting some sort of ascendancy, however after a good run and a quick play the ball from Bowman Stein, it was Trinity Miller’s lack of pace off the mark that saw him run into trouble before forcing a pass back to Stein who dropped it, killing off their momentum.

From the next set it was another discard in Juan Ryan who carved a hole through the soft middle of the under 18s side. Unfortuntely for Joe Macguire’s side he ignored an unmarked Charlie Pulsford and on the next play Shandyn Moody ignored 3 unmarked players outside him before dropping the ball.

The try of the day, however belongs to another player that trialled for a place in the SG Ball squad in 2018 and has thus far been overlooked. North Beach fullback Tye Saus. The under 18s had a 40/20 attempt, but couldn’t get the bounce they were after. Saus picked up the ball 15m from his own line and then stood up 3 players to escape down the left touch line. The cover defence of Tyler Hunt came across and he seemed certain to be bundled into touch, but a poor effort from Hunt saw Saus streak away, showing great speed to beat all chasers and score under the posts. The try sealed the result.

Both teams had some close chances denied by touch judge flags late in the game, but that was the last of the scoring.

Manning will certainly have some concerns after that game, particularly with the way Vogler picked them apart through the middle of the field, but it was only a trial game and we saw several different halves combinations with Macdonald, Harmer, Hunt and Tierney all spending some time in the halves in differing combinations. He also has the scope to draft in players like Vogler, Saus, Ryan, Edwards and Estreich to the squad if he chooses. For Macguire he would be happy with the performances of the younger players that are SG Ball eligible, but he would have wanted a bit more from his players with first grade experience like Greg Lingard and Shandyn Moody.

The Cash Converters West Coast Pirates have a couple of weeks to regroup before their next hit out against PNG WA on February 3 and then their round 1 SG Ball clash against the defending premiers Parramatta on February 10.