ROCKINGHAM Sharks are the Smarter Than Smoking Premiership minor premiers for 2017.
It is the first senior first-grade minor premiership in their history, as the club prepares to celebrate its 30th birthday this weekend.
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 KPIs completed,” president Dale Christy said.
“Now we have two more games to win to reach the grand final and then to win it.”
Last 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.
It was intense and passionate as the outstanding Geordie Connelly went 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. He found Connelly again before pushing on to Toby-Dangen to score.
Hunt’s fine kick gave the visitors a 10-point buffer at half-time.
The Sharks then had to weather another Giants push to find parity. And 15 minutes into the second half, the home side scored a converted try that left the Sharks with a slim four-point lead.
For 10 minutes the Giants camped deep in the Sharks half and a succession of 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 broke up-field and Reedy’s superbly weighted cross field kick on the last tackle evaded the defence before Hudson dived 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.
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.