The Goose Step – 2023 Junior Semi Final Edition

Welcome to the Goose Step!

I apologise to my loyal readers. Its been a busy year, but we want to show the juniors some love, so lets get into it.
Coffee has been had, and love of the game is at a high, so lets go!

With the junior finals action kicking off this Sunday, 9:30am at Charlottes Vineyard Sports Pavilion, Ellenbrook, lets have a look at the competition.

U13 Boys – 9:30am

Minor Premiers – Willagee Bears
Major Semi Final – Bears vs Tigers
Elimination Semi Final – Bulldogs vs Roosters
The main question is can anyone stop the march of the Willagee Bears. They are a mammoth of a side, with size, speed and skill all over the paddock. Led by the indomitable Legend Koro-Hikawera, they finished the regular season undefeated with a +342 difference in For and Against. Just to let you know, the next closest team in that respect, was +12. Yep 330 points seperated the two sides. The team given the challenge of facing them in the Major Semi Final is the plucky side from the far north in the Alkimos Tigers. An interesting side, they have yet to put together a full 50 minute game, and tend to fall asleep and let their opponents back into contests. But they won’t die wondering here and classy hitman Leilyn Herewini-Kapea will be making sure his team mates are up for the challenge.

In the Elimination game, the Kalamunda Bulldogs and the Fremantle Roosters face-off in a do or die semi final. And the Bulldogs have had the wood on the Roosters this season. But it hasn’t been by much, and you get the feeling the Roosters are going to be all out this weekend in this fixture. The Bulldogs are a real team outfit, with their whole side getting amongst the action on both sides of the ball, but watch from young Carlijah Hiko-Kita at lock who can really tie a side together between the backs and forwards. For the Roosters, young Levi Jetta has grown exponentially as a classy fullback and leader among his peers.

U14s Boys – 10:40am
Minor Premiers – Willagee Bears
Major Semi Final – Bears vs Rabbitohs
Elimination Semi Final – Roosters vs Bulldogs
As with the U13s, the Willagee Bears are a powerful favourite in this division. Another unbeaten minor premier, their for and against is even more insane than their U13 counterparts. Considering they were beaten grand finalists last year, in a ripper of a game, they have inherited some amazing players to already add to their class. Tamati Tawhitapou is one of these such recruits and he is a scary prospect. All power and speed, he is dangerous from anywhere on the field and just goes about his business with no fanfare. On the other side of the Major Semi Final, hoping to knock the Bears off, are the enigmatic Rabbitohs. Now they have the size, firepower and speed to really take it to the Bears, but their inconsistency and error rate have really hurt them at stages this year. But they get their chance to go straight into the GF here with a big performance, and one of their aces in the hole is young Tiakitutengaehe “Formby” Turner. Formby has really matured into a classy backrow or halve option and his team mates will be looking to him to make a big difference this weekend.

In the Elimination game are the talented but undersized Roosters, and the youthful Bulldogs. The Roosters do not have the size of the Bunnies or Bears, but they are a team brimming with some talented players who punch well above their weight. But they do have a young man mountain to rally around in young Tyler Dickie. Last year he was a big gangly, rangy forward who hadn’t really grown into his own body. But in 2023 he is a machine. Comfortable in the middle or an edge, he is a handful for any opponent. The Bulldogs are a bit of a surprise to be in the finals. A very young side, they have been given numbers from the U13s most weeks, but are happy to punch above their weight week to week and will get an opportunity to keep proving the doubters wrong. The ability to step up from players such as young Casey Berthelsen cannot be understated as they stand their ground against a hurricane of strong players in this division.

U17s Boys- 11:50am
Minor Premiers – Rockingham Sharks
Major Semi Final – Sharks vs Giants
Elimination Semi Final – Rabbitohs vs Sea Eagles
One of the best youth divisions we have had in recent times, 7 teams took the competition by storm this year, and week to week no one was safe. It was a case of everyone had to turn up on the day or risk chalking up another loss. The Sharks looked like they would finish unbeaten minor premiers, and then were completely outclassed by the Giants two rounds ago in a 16-0 loss. But they will be keeping that as ammunition for their matchup this week. Thomas Leeder headlines a stack of stars for the favourites. As a talented backrow or half option, he literally can play anywhere and having played some senior football this season has grown in stature. The Giants were always going to be a better side in 2023. Basically playing all of 2022 with a band of young players, they have a more mature side this year and have improved out of sight. Cruz Beazley in particular has really become a player to watch, with his size, power and footwork as a backrower already complementing his fearless competitive nature.

Another amazing game on offer in the Elimination Game, with the hometown Ellenbrook Rabbitohs welcoming last years premiers, the North Beach Sea Eagles. The Rabbitohs are a big, physical and unpredictable side who can hurt you from anywhere on the field. Possessing fire power all over the field, effort and consistency are their focus areas as they look to bundle one of the big favourites out the back door in week one. Haka Lake is one of the most dangerous players in junior rugby league we have seen in some time. A devastating outside back with lightning speed and real power, he is a lightning rod for the Rabbitohs. For the Sea Eagles, they started the competition off  with a bit of a whimper, but they have managed to squeeze into the finals and will fancy themselves from here. Possessing probably the most talented halves pairing in recent years, Latrelle Chase and Darius Rogers are two of the most dynamic and talented players in the game. This game will be a beauty.

U15s Girls – 1:10pm
Minor Premiers – Ellenbrook Rabbitohs
Major Semi Final – Rabbitohs vs Giants
Elimination Semi Final – Titans vs Sharks
Here we are back for another big year of U15 girls. And Ellenbrook Rabbitohs are still the team to beat. But this year its a much closer affair. Last year the Bunnies swept everyone aside to a massive win in the Grand Final. But time changes all things, and the other sides in the competition are back with a vengance this season. The Bunnies do know how to win these though. Being undefeated and suffering a solitary draw, they have speed and power all over the field. Kylah-Rae Tuheke-Kupa consistently shows week to week that she is a premier player in this division with exceptional speed and vision, along with an exceptional skillset. For the Giants, they come in a year older and will see this as their time to shine. Humbled last year, they were very young in 2022 and look more better prepared this season. Watch for the diminutive but brave Shontay Hokianga, who reads the game better than most. Always putting herself in positions to launch an attacking raid or make a cover tackle, she has really advanced in 2023.

In the Elimination Final, the new look Kwinana Titans will be firm favourites against the brave Rockingham Sharks. The Titans have had a new influx of girls at the club to add to their stocks, and they will be looking to get through this game and challenge the top two. Palace Koia has found a new home, and her mix of speed and balance allows her to inject herself into the contest at will. But the Titans cannot afford to look too far ahead. The Sharks have been plucky this year and won’t be afraid to have a real crack at their fancied opponents. Young Te Whai Huriwai-Brown continues to be a shining light and her pedigree, experience and nous really needs to shine through if they are going to be a chance in this one.

U15s Boys- 2:20pm
Minor Premiers – Rockingham Sharks
Major Semi Final – Sharks vs Bulldogs
Elimination Semi Final – Giants vs Titans
Outside of the 17s Boys division, this is the one that creates the most interest from all 4 remaining teams. At times this year, when the players all focus on rugby league, all 4 teams are capable of epic rugby league. But it has been a case of can anyone improve the way the Sharks have? Rockingham Sharks have gotten better the longer the season has gone, and are primed for this one. With one of the most epic spines in the game, the emergence of Taimana Hurihanganui as a quality running ball player has left other teams scratching their heads about who to watch. But the defending champion Bulldogs will be literally chomping at the bit to set the record straight here. Their pedigree in this age group has been well defined in previous seasons, and their ability to hurt teams from anywhere on the field is well known. Carter Nikora has a beautiful mix of speed and power that makes him a target for opposition teams every single week.

And in our last Elimination Game of the weekend, the Joondalup Giants faceoff against the new kids on the block, the Kwinana Titans. Both teams are guilty of only playing one half of football at different stages this year. For instance, two weeks ago, the Giants had the Sharks at their mercy at the halftime break only to fall asleep in the second half, while on the other side of town, the Titans took a whole half to click into gear and almost ran down the Bulldogs. The Giants have some classy edge players, but have been running out of stamina in the middle of the field. They will need a huge effort from big man Jahziah Niwa-Siolo, who has been in amazing form but will need to be on the field longer. For the Titans, their games have been dictated by their ability to control the middle of the field. And young Tyrese Flood has been a big part of that. One of the best props in the age group, his ability to get through the line and offload after contact has been a pleasure to watch.

Thats the games for this weekend, with U13s Girls and GLT coming into play in the preliminaries!

Get down to the games to watch some great rugby league action!