Rockingham Sharks Coach Darren Shaw has labelled Saturday’s WA Smarter Than Smoking Premiership Round 16 clash with the Fremantle Roosters as a “must-win” if his side wants to play finals football.
The Sharks currently occupy fourth spot on the ladder – the last finals berth, but Shaw knows the importance of picking up a win against the ladder-leading Roosters.
“It’s a massive, must-win for us. Four games to go and we’ve pretty much got to win all of them to get into the four,” he said.
Fremantle comes into the fixture having won five of their last six games and are fresh from a 12-try routing of the Joondalup Giants last week.
“They’re a very momentum-based side. They get off to fast starts so that’s something we’ve really got to address,” Shaw said.
“We’ve just got to be honest and win the ruck early.
“They are obviously very well-drilled, they’re disciplined in what they do, so it’s just about us putting bodies in front of bodies and working really hard.”
The Sharks are coming off a thumping 60-14 win over the Willagee Bears last weekend – a result which snapped a four-game losing streak.
“It’s given us a little bit of confidence. The way we went about it too was a lot better,” Shaw said.
Shaw was particularly impressed by the performance of 17-year-old centre Will Smith, who scored a double on his return from South African national team and Combined Affiliated States Under 18’s duty.
“He’s obviously had a pretty tough last four to six weeks, but he’s settled back in,” he said.
“He’s a very strong defender. He’s done a very good job for us.”
Shaw knows a win will be good enough to keep his side in the top four for at least another week and says it could even come down to the last game of the season to decide whether it’s the Sharks or Giants who make the finals.
“There’s a bit of water under the bridge before it comes to it – potentially it could come down to the last game of the year. We play Joondalup at home on the last game,” he said.
In team news, Rockingham will be without utility Josh Jerome, after the former Melbourne Storm youth player tore his groin last weekend.
“It’s a big blow for us – he’s played well for us. He’s performed a number of roles for us,” Shaw said.
Meanwhile, Fremantle enter the clash without forward Brad Gibson and hooker Simon Tabakanaca.
In other games around the grounds, the North Beach Sea Eagles will look to return to the winner’s circle when they travel to take on Willagee, while the South Perth Lions host Joondalup.