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Youth can be blessing or liability

Discussion in 'Rugby League Forum' started by Guest, Sep 6, 2007.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    +0 /0
    If we put huge poressure on souths then expect a few of their players to choke on saturday night. A few Steve Mavin type perfomances.

    King and Cuthbo must take out Asotasi and Cusak right from the start.

    WHAT'S scarier? A straggle of journalists looking for a story or a first-grade football team desperate to win the comp? South Sydney provided an answer of sorts when they wheeled out five players for interviews this week: Roy Asotasi, Dean Widders, Nigel Vagana, Peter Cusack and Paul Mellor.

    No kids allowed. Teenage hooker Issac Luke stayed safely behind closed doors, along with Fetuli Talanoa and Michael Greenfield, a four-game tyro at the club. Experience counts at times like this, and all five players offered up to the jackals of the press have "been there, done that, given the interviews".

    It's just as well because without their imports, Souths would enter Brookvale Oval with very few players who had played September football. The Rabbitohs have nine players with no finals experience, and can claim only 56 finals appearances among their team.

    Most of Manly's side (15 players) have played finals - almost all of them bitter defeats. The Bulldogs players boast a tally of 115 finals games and 13 grand final appearances - more than any side - but are they singing old glory? Is the Warriors' momentum worth more than their inexperience (nine rookies) in September? And what of the Storm, motivated all year by the acrid taste of grand final defeat? Twelve of their players experienced that disappointment last year.

    Cusack believes experience brings responsibility. "You need to lead the way at the start of the game," said the veteran of two grand finals and nine other finals appearances.

    "I remember when I was playing for he Roosters, you'd always look to the senior players like Adrian Morley, Craig Fitzgibbon, and they'd set the trend at the start of the game. Now it's my turn, and Roy, Nige and Deano."

    Vagana admitted surprise at the low-key atmosphere at Erskineville Oval. "It's a bit surreal. They boys are fairly relaxed but I don't think they understand the type of game it is. I'm surprised they're not buzzing a bit more," he said.

    But innocence might be a blessing, the veteran centre suggested. "They're not worried about situations that can arise because they don't know: they're green," he said.

    Steve Mortimer echoed the theme. "When I played my first finals match I was just a kid, a free spirit. As I got a bit older and got to my first grand final, I thought '****, this is a grand final,"' he recalled. "We lost it and I felt cheated, and I thought if that comes again, I'm not going to stuff it up." He retired with four premierships to his name.

    "A game of rugby league is like life - it's full of ups and downs," Mortimer said. "Sometimes you're really doing it tough, and the real key is to hang in there, and you might be absolutely out on your arse, and it will be one terrific tackle that can turn the game.

    "The tide does turn, and you can only really understand that if you've had the experience."

    The right balance in a side can be a huge help. When Greenfield is in the sheds at half-time gasping for air and wondering how he's going to make it through the second section, he will turn to Cusack and Asotasi.

    Souths legend Mario Fenech thinks finals football is three times more intense than regular-season competition. He ruefully recalls losing a major semi-final with North Sydney to Penrith, 16-14, in 1991. "Daryl Halligan, the greatest goalkicker of all time, kicked one goal from five attempts, missed three shots from right in front, and we lost the game despite scoring three tries to two," he said.

    But, with Souths facing a full house at Brookvale, something other than finals experience will be the telling factor, Fenech argued. "It won't be experience that beats us. It's an attitude thing. We've got to march into Brookvale ready to roll. It's a tough ask, but when you're faced with do-or-die, what choice do you have?"

    Peter Sterling famously played fullback for Parramatta in a semi-final in 1978. "I look back on it as one of the most pivotal games of my career because I walked off a much better player for having had the opportunity in such a pressure situation," he said.

    Today's rookies were much better prepared for games like this, Sterling said. But what of the Bulldogs - are they to be feared in September?

    "The Bulldogs are a team that has played a lot of finals football but, with all due respect, I think they're living in the past," he said. "It's fine to say they're been there and done it, but for all the good games they played they're not necessarily backing it up."

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