Mark Nicholls has been named to captain the Rabbitohs for the first time in his career.
The Rabbitohs round 25 team will feature Blake Taaffe at fullback, Taane Milne on the wing, Braidon Burns centre, Peter Mamouzelos hooker, Patrick Mago prop and Dean Hawkins, Tautau Moga, Jed Cartwright and Davvy Moale on the interchange bench.
Lachlan Ilias will make his NRL debut at halfback.
The Rabbitohs players will wear special one-off jerseys in Saturday’s game, with each individual jersey featuring the name of a Rabbitohs supporter in place of the club’s major home corporate partner Aqualand. The jerseys will then be signed and gifted to those Rabbitohs supporters after the match to thank them for their ongoing support of South Sydney.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs’ NRL squad for Saturday’s clash with the Dragons is:
1 Blake Taaffe
3 Braidon Burns
4 Campbell Graham
5 Jaxson Paulo
6 Benji Marshall
7 Lachlan Ilias
8 Junior Tatola
9 Peter Mamouzelos
10 Patrick Mago
11 Jaydn Su’A
12 Jacob Host
13 Mark Nicholls (c)
14 Dean Hawkins 15 Tautau Moga
16 Jed Cartwright 17 Davvy Moale
18 Jai Arrow 19 Cameron Murray
20 Alex Johnston 21 Cody Walker
Head Coach – Wayne Bennett (rabbitohs.com.au)
In the final round of the regular season the Bunnies take on a Dragons team with nothing to play for except pride in the Red V jersey.
St George Illawarra slumped to 12th on the NRL ladder with a club record equalling 7th loss in a row on Saturday against the Cowboys at Browne Park in Rockhampton.
In week 1 of the finals Souths will be playing either Penrith or the Storm & nothing they do against the Dragons will change that.
The Rabbitohs can possibly move up to second if the Panthers lose to the Eels but in the first week of the finals with no home ground advantage on offer to the teams finishing first & second that result won’t matter to Souths.
If the Storm lose to the Sharks & Penrith win then we meet the Storm.
When we play Melbourne or Penrith in the finals at a venue to be announced one fact is certain, the match won’t be contested at AAMI Park in Melbourne or Penrith Park with all signs pointing to the neutral venues at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Cbus Stadium on the Gold Coast & Sunshine Coast Stadium for the big games ahead.
So with the Dragons preparing for mad Monday & the Rabbitohs with no incentive to win, this game on paper doesn’t look much but any time the two most famous clubs in the history of rugby league in this country meet footy fans sit up & take notice.
Saturday night 7.30pm at Sunshine Coast Stadium will be no different.
All eyes will be on the man who has replaced the suspended Latrell Mitchell in the coveted number 1 red & green jersey.
His name is Blake Taaffe.
22 year old Taaffe has never tasted defeat in first grade for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the 4 games he’s appeared in. He became Rabbitohs player number #1171 when he made his debut off the bench in a 46-0 hammering of the Broncos at Suncorp in round 15 this year.
Taffee came on at fullback to give Latrell Mitchell a rest & had an immediate impact showing great hands to put winger Taane Milne over in the corner. A try assist in the 19 minutes of his debut game time.
Two weeks later in his 2nd appearance Blake started at fullback & scored his first try in first grade in a 46-18 win over the Cowboys in Newcastle when Alex Johnston put a lovely kick on a platter for Taaffy to pounce on.
Taaffes’ first full 80 mins for Souths produced a try, 17 runs for 180m with 51 post contact metres & 3 tackle busts. Not bad work at all by the rookie Souths junior from La Perouse.
The following week against the Bulldogs Blake was promoted again to the starting fullback spot & did his job running for 168m in a 32-24 win in which the Dogs lifted their game to heights not seen all year.
Taaffes’ last game in first grade was a brief 10 minute cameo in a 50-14 dismantling of the opponents he will face again this week, the Dragons in round 20 on the 1st of August.
When asked about Taaffe club captain Adam Reynolds said “His effort areas are second to none in our team. He’s an energiser Bunny he’s quick on his feet he’s not afraid to take the line on & he’s quick too.”
Since the global pandemic reared it’s ugly head last year the pathways teams have lost the best part of 2 seasons.
The fallout from this is that plenty of players have missed a lot of time on the football field that would have provided valuable experience & development.
Todays team gives a lot of those players a chance to get out there and rip right in.