By Peter Rowe
Premierships are never won in June, but the midway point of any season is often a good indication of where that trophy might be heading.
Although the 2022 NRL WA Play to Fuel and Go Premiership has yet to indicate where that trophy might end up as we enjoy one of the tightest competitions in years.
“It’s close across so many teams,” North Beach coach Phil Douche concedes.
“Anyone of five teams can still win it.”
Douche’s Sea Eagles started out in April as favourites, and after a solid start they were the form side.
Then a couple of losses has seen other sides come back into contention.
“2022 has some challenges,” Douche said. “Which I’m sure all the other clubs have had to face.”
Douche is referring to two (or maybe three) areas: Covid and its knock-on effects, the ever-increasing presence of Fifo work, and, as always in any season, game changing injuries.
“If we can get everybody fit and on the park, yes, we’re pretty good,” Douche said.
“But so many other teams are as well.
“South Perth are improving, Fremantle are always hard to beat, especially if Delane (Edwards) is playing, Joondalup with a fit Taurean Sheehan are a handful and Rockingham have come good this season.”
South Perth coach Daniel Green admits it’s been tough. “We can’t take a trick for injuries right now,” he said last week.
“If I can get players back, we’ll be there come finals. There’s a long way to go.
And Sheehan says much the same.
“There’s real competition this year if we are all fit and healthy,” he says.
“But each week we all fielding different sides because of Fifo work and sometimes Covid.
“That said, I have been encouraged by what I have seen this year, especially at Rockingham.”
Even John Hough at Ellenbrook can’t spot a clear winner.
“We keep turning up for each other and that is crucial,” he admits.
“This is a long term project here, we’ve just got funding for a new clubroom and dressing rooms and we’ve got great numbers in juniors.
“So for us it’s about creating pathways for the future.”
Hough has the same issues in seniors: Fifo shifts and players attracted to union. But the Rabbitohs are still turning up, much to their credit.
“Competing week in, week out is paramount if we are to build that platform to move forward,” he says.
Meanwhile, Fremantle are loving life at their new Treeby base.
Chairman Steve Revere calls their new home “awesome”.
And his Delane Edwards-led side is still very much in the hunt for another premiership.
The Roosters will always be there come finals and are never an easy game, but with as many Fifo commitments as other clubs, their lineup changes from week to week.
Against a strong Rockingham side two weeks ago, and with Edwards sidelined with injury, they didn’t click.
Fast forward seven days and North Beach coach Phil Douche felt the full force.
“They came with a clear plan and executed it very well,” he said.
The same could be said at Rockingham, where coach Darren Shaw saw his side drop the ball too many times to allow South Perth to take the points.
After five straight wins, the Sharks, with seven out due to Fifo commitments, lost their mojo in a game dominated by appalling weather conditions.
“We were poor in the first half and we have to learn from that,” Shaw said, acknowledging like others, that this season has its own unique set of challenges.
It’s that sort of season.