Round 11 First Grade Preview
By Tate Spiteri
The First Grade season will return from the CAS Championships bye this weekend with a string of important matches set to take place.
North West Wolves v Northern Thunder @ AJ Davis Reserve
The Northern derby always promises to include a bit of extra spice and for this reason the Wolves will consider themselves a chance in front of their home fans at AJ Davis Reserve. The winless Wolves will hope state pair Conaniah Kirisome and Lehi Taomia return from their CAS experience better players but will need to watch the impact of Thunder star Arana Masoe if they are to stand any chance.
Masoe was recently named in the Affiliated States squad to take on England in a World Cup warm up match in Perth and was earlier in the year described by coach Ed Simamao as his sides “Star and X-Factor player”.
The Thunder will still be brimming of confidence after their stunning 1 point win over fellow finals contenders Doveton before the bye. William Sila was the hero in that game scoring the field goal that ultimately won the game for the Thunder.
Sila has been a star for the Thunder all season as evident by his strong presence in the Player of the Year vote count to the half way point of the season.
Prediction: Thunder by 18 points
Doveton Steelers v Waverley Oakleigh Panthers @ Betula Reserve
While the Panthers’ sole win for the season remains against the battling North West Wolves, the efforts from the struggling side has undoubtedly improved as the seasons gone on.
Last rounds almost inevitable 72-0 belting at the hands of Casey aside the Panthers had been extremely competitive against the likes of Werribee and the Northern Thunder.
Last time these two sides met the Steelers won by just 6 points in a game that spring boarded the Steelers’ rejuvenated form.
Following last rounds 1-point loss to Northern Thunder Doveton can ill afford to drop this match as they bid to stay in touch with the competitions top 4.
Prediction: Steelers by 10
Altona Roosters v Werribee Bears @ Bruce Comben Reserve
The young Roosters have at times this year threatened to burst out of the blocks and beat one of the competitions best teams and this weekend will be yet another chance for it to finally happen.
Burdened by inconsistency, the Roosters were outclassed earlier in the year by a Werribee outfit that although perhaps a touch off their prolific best have only lost 1 game.
The Bears’ ability to rise when they need to and to just stay ahead of games is the envy of the competition and they will be expected to do the same this weekend.
Prediction: Werribee by 8
Casey Warriors v Sunbury Tigers @ Casey Fields
This weekend’s match of the round sees the undefeated Casey host the dangerous Sunbury.
The fast building Tigers are a genuine Grand Final contender having fallen just 8 points short of second placed Werribee last round without star duo Tiaan Wilkins and Terry Constantinou.
Wilkins and Constantinou were both named in the Affiliated States squad set to take on England in Perth following strong performances playing for Victoria in the CAS Championships in Adelaide.
Casey’s Brandon Taua’a was also named in the squad.
In a further boost to Sunbury’s chances of inflicting Casey’s first defeat of the season they have named former Sunbury United junior and current Melbourne Storm Holden Cup player Sale Finau.
Finau is a massive inclusion in a match already boasting some of NRL Victoria’s best players and will hope to use the game to capture some form heading into the back part of the season.
While a repeat of the 54-12 hiding the Warriors handed out last time these teams met earlier in the year at Langama Park the Tigers will take a lot from the result.
Michael Ki scored 3 tries that day while Richard Ene crossed the line twice and Chase Aporo dominated.
Expect Sunbury to throw everything at Casey but the star studded Warriors line up to again flex their muscles and continue their undefeated streak.
Prediction: Casey by 8