GROUP 7 RUGBY LEAGUE
Warilla coach Peter Hooper says his side will know the real value of their strong start to the season when top spot is on the line later in the year.
The Gorillas continued their winning start to 2014 with a 50-22 thrashing of Albion Park last week after close wins over Shellharbour and Kiama.
Hooper’s side is the only undefeated team as it prepares to host a struggling Port Kembla on Sunday.
‘‘We had to work hard for those wins,’’ Hooper said.
‘‘They’re [Kiama and Shellharbour] probably top five sides and we got away with a couple of wins.
‘‘The ones at the start of the year can really affect you at the end of the year so we’re pretty happy where we’re sitting, that’s for sure.’’
Hooper was happy with the effort against the Eagles last week but said his players had other ideas.
‘‘It was probably the best 80 minutes we’ve put together this year,’’ he said.
‘‘We increased the tempo when we needed to and I was quite pleased.
‘‘We’ve set ourselves some standards this year and Albion Park put 22 points on us.
‘‘Some of the boys were a bit upset that they let that happen so we’ll be out to improve our defensive structure a little bit this week.
‘‘It’s not me setting the standards, it’s the players themselves that are doing that, which makes it easier.’’
The opening three wins have provided Hooper with some welcome selection headaches, with the off-season return of Nick Lazarevski and Damien Paulisson bolstering the Gorillas’ healthy stocks.
‘‘We’ve got [Nick] Lazarevksi and Damien [Paulisson] back, which adds some firepower to your side,’’ Hooper said.
‘‘Having Nick back takes some pressure off the halves and guys like Aaron Henry and Beau Sewell.
‘‘Instead of looking at two or three blokes they have to look at a whole other dimension.
‘‘With Damien back it gives us another imposing figure in the middle.
‘‘I’ve got a headache because we’ve got 20 blokes who are good first-graders and only 17 can play each week.’’
Elsewhere in Group Seven, Gerringong host Jamberoo on Saturday while Berry will travel to Bill Andriske Oval to take on Milton-Ulladulla. Kiama are at home to Albion Park on Sunday.