Sharks keen to repeat history, Rabbitohs look to make history

The Ellenbrook Rabbitohs and Rockingham Sharks last met in Round 10 with the Sharks winning 36-34
Credit: Rob Morrell

Two teams with very different background stories will go head-to-head this Saturday as the 2019 WA Smarter Than Smoking Premiership reaches its final round – with both sides gunning for the same outcome.

The Rockingham Sharks, a club established in 2004 will look to repeat last year’s final round heroics which saw them reach the finals when they host the competition new-boys, the Ellenbrook Rabbitohs – a club founded in 2015.

Currently occupying the all-important fourth spot on the ladder, Ellenbrook travel down to Rockingham Mazda Arena this weekend in a ‘winner takes all contest’ where the winner will qualify for finals football and the loser’s season will be over.

Josh Neal kicks for goal for the Sharks
Credit: Nancye Perrin

Separated by just points differential, the Sharks will take heart knowing the fact they have done this before.

Dave Tito’s men were in a similar position against the Joondalup Giants 12 months ago – needing a 15-point win to leapfrog their opponents into the finals.

On that day, a Connor Hudson try after the siren led the Sharks home in a dramatic game.

This year, however, plenty of faces have come in and out of the Sharks clubhouse, but one thing has remained the same – their desire to win.

“We need to get off to a good start,” Tito said.

The Sharks have won four of their last five games and enter the contest as one of the form teams in the competition.

Nathan Hill has been one of the standout performers for Rockingham in 2019
Credit: Nancye Perrin

“The last four of five weeks has been good – we knew we had it in us,” Tito said.

“We’re very confident in what we’re going to do this week.”

On the flip side, the Rabbitohs climbed back into the top four after a 46-18 win over the Joondalup Giants last weekend – a win which moved them above the Sharks on points differential.

“Going into this game, everyone’s really confident and keen to go,” Ellenbrook player-coach Jarek Goebel said.

“Games like these – it’s a toss of a coin.

“It’s massive for the club.”

Jarek Goebel will hope to guide Ellenbrook to finals football in their first season
Credit: Rob Morrell

In team news, Rockingham will be boosted by the return of winger Josh Neal who comes into the side in place of Michael Heather, while Daniel Goodwin and Matthew Rangiuia are unavailable.

Ellenbrook, meanwhile, welcome back leading try-scorer Kade Pearce and winger Jesse Rihari for the clash.

“It’s massive for us – it’s probably our best squad all year,” Goebel said.

“It’s the best time to do it, for the biggest game of the season.”

The teams last met in Round 10, with the Sharks recording a 36-34 come-from-behind win over the Rabbitohs, despite Ellenbrook leading 34-10 in the second half.

“We do take confidence from that game even though it was a loss,” Goebel said.

In the competition’s other game, minor premiers, the North Beach Sea Eagles take on the South Perth Lions at George Burnett Park.*

Both games kick-off at 3.30pm.

*The Willagee Bears v Fremantle Roosters game has been forfeited.

Kade Pearce returns from injury to face the Sharks
Credit: Leanne Jeffries