Nedlands meet Kalamunda at Hartfield on Saturday as prime representatives of one of the most unusual seasons in recent years of the WA club rugby competition, sponsored by KWIK Crane and Transport Hire.

Nedlands have made every finals series in the last couple of decades, last winning premierships in 1999 and 2000. They won the minor premiership in 2007 by a country mile but lost the grand final to dark horses Perth-Bayswater, and lost the 2008 preliminary final to season bolters Wanneroo.

But this year, in their 75th anniversary and fielding a record number of eight senior teams, the Royal Blues found themselves relegated to the ranks of the competition battlers for no obvious reason. Seven rounds into the competition they wallowed near the bottom of the table with just two wins.

However, since then Neddies’ fortunes have steadily improved, with wins over Perth-Bayswater and Palmyra signalling that the perennial heavyweights are back in the big time. Last week’s one-point thriller over bogey team Associates took Nedlands to fifth place on the table, trailing Soaks by just two competition points. The achievement becomes more notable with most of their first grade back line on the injury list.

Premiers Kalamunda, so often an also-ran in the WA club competition, rose to the finals in 2007 and went through the 2008 season head and shoulders above the competition to win the club’s first premiership.

Losing a few key forwards over the summer but with their dangerous back line intact, the Bulls 2009 season has been even more dismal than Nedlands’. They didn’t record their first win until round five but threatened to echo Neddies’ comeback when they knocked over third-placed Cottesloe 41-5 in round nine and came within points of Wanneroo and Associates.

But unlike Neddies, the Bulls have not followed through. Substantial losses to Perth-Bayswater and Palmyra followed and Kalamunda have sunk to ninth on the table.

Every indication says that Nedlands should win this game handsomely but Tony Ball and his team are in no position to go into the contest with any sort of complacent attitude. They are still outside the four with six games remaining and have little to boast about this year, and must remain hungry for every win. As Kalamunda have shown, if they choose to rise to the occasion then none of the top four are beyond their reach, and certainly not Nedlands.

But if the game comes down to attitude, Nedlands have the better motivation. If Associates lose to Cottesloe at Allen Park they will be out of the top four and Neddies will gain an early toehold for the finals. Kalamunda had a long shot after beating Cottesloe but now they are playing for pride only, and their only motivation may be a chance to bring the Royal Blues’ five match winning streak to a humbling conclusion.

With wet weather forecast, quality runners such Kalamunda's Dave Kara and Neddies' Zane Houia are unlikely to have their usual impact. The form of goal kickers Mike Denton of Nedlands and Kane Allen of Kalamunda will be of key interest and the battle of the halfbacks should be a highlight -- enterprising Nathan Roberts of Neddies against feisty Aaron Murphy of the Bulls. Kalamunda's forward pack has improved as the season progressed and there may not be much in the contest.

The Cottesloe-Associates match at Allen Park is also loaded with drama. Early season leaders Associates have their place in the top four under threat and having won just two of their last seven games they appear to be living on borrowed time. Third-placed Cottesloe have gone from strength to strength this season for nine wins and three losses, including a powerful 41-5 shellacking of second-placed Wanneroo and a narrow 17-15 win over favourites Palmyra.

Another Cottesloe win is on the cards and that spells tough times ahead for Soaks after doing so well in the first half of the season.

At Tompkins Park, Palmyra plays struggling Rockingham, and that should be one-way traffic Palmyra’s way but Rocky still have a few bullets left in the rifle and the home side won’t be comfortable until the match is over and they are ahead on the scoreboard.

Erratic Perth-Bayswater host Wanneroo at Pat O’Hara Reserve and while the outcome might depend on which team in black decides to turn up for the game, the odds must be on the Roo-dogs who remain solidly in second place despite a couple of hiccups.

At Rosalie Park, University meet Wests-Subiaco with the young home team desperate for their first win of the season, but the under-rated Uni boys will almost certainly be too strong for them.,56043.html