By Jess Fagan.
The final game of the NRL season is almost upon us. It’s an historic moment for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, who’ll be part of the action on Grand Final day for the first time in 43 years. They’re set to take on the Canterbury – Bankstown Bulldogs, who came from 7th on the ladder at the end of the regular season to secure their spot in the decider.
In a blow for the Rabbitohs, hooker Isaac Luke will miss the Grand Final after the judiciary upheld his one-month ban for a dangerous throw on Sonny Bill Williams.
Luke took to Instagram after the decision and said he was devastated. ‘Not the result we were after’, he wrote. ‘Can only feel stronger for my brothers that will take the battlefield….now to focus on the game our weekend. SSTID (South Sydney Till I Die).’
He made special mention of Api Koroisau, who’s likely to be called upon to replace Luke, having stepped in when the 27-year-old was injured earlier this year.
Souths aren’t the only ones who’ll be missing a key player come Sunday, after Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis told the media he’d need a miracle to take the field.
Ennis has a fractured foot but says he’s really happy for the team and wants them to be able to get on with preparing for the big game. Coach Des Hasler is keeping a few cards up his sleeve and named the injured skipper in his line-up on Tuesday afternoon, despite the injury.
For the Rabbitohs, back rower Ben Te’o returns to the starting side and Kyle Turner’s been named on an extended interchange bench.
Plenty of eyes will be on Sam Burgess come Sunday. It’ll be his last game for South Sydney, with the newly crowned Dally M Lock of the Year off to play rugby union in England.
Burgess says there’s plenty of excitement around the club this week and the chance to line up against good mate and fellow Englishman, James Graham, only adds to the experience.
When the sides run onto ANZ Stadium it’ll be the third time they’ve squared off this season.
The Bulldogs won their Good Friday clash by just one point, while the Rabbitohs hit back in round 25 with a 21-14 win.
Fans turned out in droves this week to wish both teams well. Bulldogs members were treated to a meet and great, while thousands packed Redfern Stadium to watch the Rabbitohs train. Coach Michael ‘Madge’ McGuire says it’s a memory the team will keep with them forever.
No doubt they’ll be out in full force come Sunday, but only one group of supporters will be celebrating after the final whistle.