ROCKINGHAM Sharks are the Smarter Than Smoking Premiership minor premiers for 2017.
The first senior first grade minor premiership in their history – as the club prepares to celebrate its 30th birthday this weekend.
And they have their defensive strength to thank for this achievement – by far the best record in the league this year.
“That is our first of three KPI’s completed,” president Dale Christy said.
“Now we have two more games to win to reach the grand final and then to win it.”
On Saturday at Admiral Park the Sharks fought out a tough encounter with a Joondalup Giants side still trying to secure finals football – eventually prevailing 26-6.
For the first half-hour the game was scoreless as each side made mistakes, trying to punch a hole in the others’ defence.
It was intense and passionate as the outstanding Geordie Connelly came the closest to scoring before a big 60m break from winger Connor Hudson put the Sharks in control.
A Connelly break and pass in the 33rd minute gave fullback Benton Pyako the opportunity to find the whitewash and the Papua New Guinean zipped between two defenders to open his account for the day.
Tyler Hunt’s kick edged wide in a strong wind as the Sharks upped their tempo to pin the tiring Giants in their own half.
Four minutes later the Sharks scored again, with winger Hayden Toby-Dangen crossing after a big break through the middle from the outstanding Caleb Reedy.
Reedy took three defenders with him before passing to Connelly, who then put Reedy back in possession before slipping a pass to halfback Anthony Bowman.
Bowman found Connelly again before pushing on to Toby-Dangen to score.
Hunt’s super kick gave the visitors a 10-point buffer at the break as the Sharks weathered another Giants push to find parity.
It came 15 minutes into the second half as the home side at last found the try line and with the kick good, the Sharks held a slim four-point lead.
For 1O minutes the Giants camped deep in the Sharks half and a succession of ‘questionable’ penalties put the visitors under immense pressure.
But this team is built on defence and time and again they held firm to stop their opponents.
Having survived, the Sharks quickly marched up field and Reedy’s superbly weighted cross field kick on the last tackle evaded the Joondalup defender out wide allowing Hudson to dive on a loose ball to score.
When Julian Wilson-Wyllie added another after 65 minutes, the game as a contest was over.
Toby-Dangen grabbed his second nine minutes from time and with the conversion good the Sharks ran down the clock before being informed on the field that rivals Fremantle had been beaten by North Beach.
The victory confirmed a second club minor premiership for the year, with Third Grade also finishing the season on top, although they suffered a rare defeat on Saturday, going down 34-4. The reserves, who will finish second on the ladder, were also beaten, 18-0.