The Bell Ringer Round 4 preview
By Donny Bell
In Round 4 the West Coast Pirates head back home after a fortnight on the road and once again they run into a rugby league junior powerhouse in the Illawarra Steelers. The Steelers were knocked out in the preliminary finals of last years SG Ball competition, while their under 16 Harold Matthews team finished in the top 4, before bowing out of the finals in straight sets.
The Steelers are a young team, with at least 8 of their starting 13 graduating from last years Harold Matthews team. They make a few changes with five eight Tarje Whitford dropped to the bench, which sees Sam Hooper come in for his first game of the season in the 6, Joseph Dickson comes into the second row for his second game of the year after coming from the bench in the round 2 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs, while Sean Payne is on an extended bench looking for his first game of the year. Out of the side is big man Shalom O’Ofou and Zach Herring.
The Steelers edges are extremely dangerous with Leeton’s Matt Feagai a part of the NSW Under 18’s pathways squad, while his centre partner Aaron Schoupp scored 4 tries in the 38-12 win over Western Suburbs in round 1. Add to that Blake Dowel as a hard running edge back rower and there is plenty of points in this team. Defensively though Schoupp is more akin to defending as a second rower and he was exposed by the Sydney Roosters last weekend as the Steelers suffered their first loss of the year 36-16, that performance followed a less than impressive, come from behind win over South Sydney. The Pirates themselves have a number of changes to their line up and this is perhaps not a game many would have expected our boys to win, but the Steelers are not as physically imposing as some of the other highly fancied teams and they are a young side, albeit an extremely talented young side. The Pirates will also need to keep a close watch on halfback Jayden Sullivan as he has great speed off the mark and has the ability to find weaknesses in defensive lines. If they hang off him he will punish us on the scoreboard.
For the Pirates the big loss is Kade Macdonald dropping out of the side, which creates a big re-shuffle with dummy half Trent Wedding going to halfback alongside Leighmon Hohaia Katene who shifts into the 6, this sees North Beach’s Bowman Stein shift from the base of the scrum into dummy half, which will allow Ollie Callan to go back to his preferred position at lock. Jaiden Wilkinson is back in the team in the back row, while Brenton Scott comes in for Mandurah’s Vince King. Taine Boelen and Jamie Vogler also come into the side on the bench as Yuri Taipeti and Xavier Vettori Lum drop out of the 17. With dummy half Vogler and utility back Jaydon Solomon both on the bench, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a late change to add a bit more size.
With Callan going into lock and Stein remaining as a middle third defender our ruck defence should be more mobile and both these players are great defenders so it should tighten everything up. The addition of Jaiden Wilkinson will add some power to our own edge with the dangerous Jackson Bond on the other side, while Will Smith has also shown good aggression with and without the ball. The big question mark will be on Darwin lad Trent Wedding in the 7 jersey and his combination with Hohaia Katene and Tyler Hunt will be vital to the Pirates being competitive in this clash.
The game kicks off at 11am at Ken Allen Field and will be followed by the West Coast Pirates under 19’s team taking on Niue WA. Would be great to see a big crowd down there to cheer on the boys. If you can’t make it to Ken Allen NRL WA will be supplying a live stream with myself and Zac Spier doing the call.