Premier Grade countdown

Fri, Mar 3, 2023, 2:11 AM
Rugby WA Media
by Rugby WA Media

The clock is counting down to the start of the Fortescue Premier Grade season. 

The season opens on March 18 with a blockbuster Grand Final rematch between UWA and Wests Scarborough with UWA out to avenge last season's 45-37 defeat in the title deciding clash.

Clubs have been training through the heat and recruiting hard as they face a season with plenty of challenges in what is expected to be a tough campaign with clubs fighting to ensure they avoid relegation.

There has already been one big twist in the story as former Western Force and All Black second-rower Jeremy Thrush takes the reigns at Wests in his first full-time coaching role.

The veteran will be a busy man after making a Lazarus-type comeback, stepping out of retirement and dusting off his boots to help the Force through their Super Rugby Pacific injury crisis.

Thrush will be a busy man, also coaching with the Force academy, but he is relishing the role of leading a new look Wests.

About half a dozen players have moved on from last year's grand final squad but new recruits are expected to arrive any day.

Thrush, who took on an assistant role with Wests last year, revealed the new challenges he faces.

"It's refreshing because any coaching I've done in the past has been with professional athletes, helping out in a session with the squad you are playing with, he said"

"The challenge now is trying to get the learning into the side.

"You don't want to force it down their throats.

"Guys are obviously there to win but they also want to have a bit of fun.

"If you are too hard on some at this level they will walk away and you need as many players as possible.

"The challenge is getting the right balance of fitness, hard work, making it fun and trying to get that learning and development so we can keep getting better.

"You have to keep in mind that these boys have been working all day, some are on night shift, some are on the mines, they may have family commitments."

Despite changes to the Wests squad Thrush believes new arrivals from England and New Zealand will fill the gaps.

"The big thing for us last year was we had so much depth," Thrush said.

"Hopefully it's the case that we will have that strength again but we have to start building combinations and get the boys training together a bit more."

With an earlier-than-usual start to the season to accommodate the Rugby World Cup Thrush is fully focused on the job in hand and is not worrying about the Grand Final rematch.

"There will obviously be some feeling from last year, but I haven't thought about it too much," Thrush said.

"As a group and a club we are not resting on what happened last year.

"UWA will be physical but both sides are likely to be rusty and you can expect a few errors.

"We'll have a few new faces floating around and it will take a while for combinations to happen.

"I've got no control on other clubs. There's no point wasting my time and energy trying to find out what they are doing, who they have got.

"I'm focusing on what we've got at Wests and being the best we can to have a successful season."

In other opening round games Cottesloe host Nedlands, Southern Lions are at home to Kalamunda, Wanneroo Districts play Associates at Kingsway, Perth Bayswater face Joondalup at Pat O'Hara Reserve and Palmyra have the bye.

The women’s season will open with a 10s competition starting on April 16. 

The first six weeks will be a grading system before moving to a competition for teams who can only commit to 10s with the Premiership expected to kick-off on May 27

Once teams have transitioned into the premiership they will not be allowed to compete in the 10s carnival.

The Grand Final rematch will be live on Stan Sport as part of the new partnership to broadcast one game a weekend.