Rockingham Sharks – 2023 Fuel To Go & Play Premiership Season Preview

BY PETER ROWE

Flying under the radar, the Rockingham Sharks have been quietly building for the new NRLWA  Fuel to Go and Play Premiership, as Peter Rowe discovered.

Rockingham Sharks ended 2022 in disappointing style, going down to North Beach and failing to make the Grand Final after spending much of the season as one of the Fuel to Play and Go Premiership’s front runners.

New coach Tom Murphy played the final few games of 2022 before being offered the top job by the club during the summer.

And he’s feeling positive about the future at the NRLWA’s most southerly premiership outfit.

“Like most clubs we’ve lost a few but we’ve picked up a few as well,“ Murphy said.

And with the return of 2020 Grand final coach Peter Williams to assist Murphy, the Sharks are not a team to be underestimated.

“Pete’s a massive add for 2023,” admitted Murphy.

“We think the same about footy and we bounce ideas off each other. He has a wealth of knowledge about the game that will help improve us immensely.”

Williams, the dad of Great Britain captain George Williams, took the Sharks from fourth to the grand final in 2020, losing in an epic encounter to the Joondalup Giants in the third period of golden point.

And with many of that young team now maturing, he will know how to get the best out of them.

Julian Wilson Wyllie has moved to Fremantle and State hooker Andrew Jeffery is out for the year after having long postponed shoulder surgery, but Murphy is confident young Brodie Gilchrist can fill that role.

“Brody is great defensively and his game awareness has improved. He’s had a spell over east and has come back a better player,” Murphy said.

“Jules is big loss but we’ve picked up some new players to add to some experience we have, players like Ben Bolth, who has been a mainstay of our middles for a while, and of course we have Keelyn.”

Keelyn Tuuta-Edwards, who was the Premiership’s Ken Allen Medal winner in 2022, will skipper the Sharks again in this campaign. A player with so much versatility and experience. He can play in the back row, as a middle or a half – and he can kick.

“He can be quite destructive as a ball playing middle as well,” Murphy said.

At most clubs this year there has been a lot of new faces at preseason training and the Sharks have been no exception, slowly growing the core group of seniors who have been training three days a week since February.

And the new coach has been full of praise for young halfback Kelvin Coleman, a recent pick-up.

“He’s a quality kid, not played for a while but learned the game in Queensland. He’s impressed me.”

Murphy has been quietly flying under the radar pre-season. What happens on the field come game day is more important in his plans.

The former Queensland Cup enforcer, who counts Nico Hynes as a mate (they played together at Sunshine Coast), will add quality to the Sharks back row contingent, but he’s keen to see others shine through.

“It’s not about me, he said. “It’s a team effort. We want to improve on last year for sure and I hope I can help many young players do that.

“We are about building an identity here. We have the biggest junior base in WA so the potential is enormous.”

Can the Sharks go one better than last year? Tom Murphy is quietly confident they can.