And then there were two.
The WA Smarter Than Smoking Premiership reaches boiling point this Saturday as the Fremantle Roosters and North Beach Sea Eagles battle it out for the right to be called 2018 Premiers.
The two standout teams of this year’s competition, Fremantle and North Beach have met on five previous occasions this season with each contest decided by 10 points or fewer.
The teams share two wins apiece and even played out a thrilling 30-30 draw to round out the regular season – a game which clinched the minor Premiership for the Sea Eagles.
All that will go out the window on Saturday, however, with just 80 minutes standing between Fremantle and their second successive premiership or North Beach’s first title since 2016.
80 minutes may seem like a long way away for North Beach, who are feeling the pain after a gruelling Preliminary Final victory over the South Perth Lions to book their Grand Final ticket.
The Sea Eagles were battered and bruised by a strong Lions pack but persevered to come away with a 30-22 win.
“We’ve got a few injury concerns to look at,” North Beach coach John Hough said.
“We’ll be wrapping them up in cotton wool and hoping for the best on Saturday.”
The Roosters, on the other hand, come into the Grand Final fresh from having the week off following a 28-18 win over the Sea Eagles during the Major Semi-Final a fortnight ago.
“With Freo having the week off, they’ll be going in as favourites having got the week off to recuperate,” Hough said.
Having scored a decade-high 766 regular season points, the Roosters own the league’s most potent attack but will have to be on the top of their game to break down a Sea Eagles defence who conceded under 16 points per contest – the stingiest in the competition.
The Roosters will rely heavily on the playmaking skills of Delane Edwards and Jordan Stringer while leading try-scorers Manihera Eden (21) and Jason Nicholls (14) will look to add to their impressive season tallies.
North Beach, meanwhile, will look to the trio of Josh Toole, Ben Taylor and Trent Trotter for inspiration. If at least two of those three are on their game, the Roosters’ defence will have a tough time containing the Sea Eagles.
As defending premiers, Fremantle will be feeling the pressure to go back-to-back, while North Beach’s minor premiership will count for very little if they aren’t able to get over the line.
“The winners of the NRL WA Premiership are the winners of the Grand Final – everyone understands that,” Hough said.
Despite this, the first-year English coach says his side are relaxed heading into the ‘Big Dance’.
“The message is to just enjoy the day, enjoy the occasion,” Hough said.
“If all goes well, we win, but if not, as long as the boys do their best that’s all we can ask.”
The game kicks off at 6.00pm at Dorrien Gardens and will be live streamed thanks to Local Media Services Company.
LIVE STREAM LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYZyY02Gcpo