The memories of a shock semi-final defeat to Mounties are fresh in the minds of South Sydney Rabbitohs players, but are proving key as the side prepares for a monumental grand final against the same opposition.
When the minor premiers went down to Mounties at Leichhardt Oval a fortnight ago, their premiership aspirations hit a somewhat unexpected hurdle; the 14-12 result, sealed by Mounties’ Talia Lealaiauloto with a penalty goal in the dying stages, sent the second-placed side directly to the decider, while minor premiers South Sydney had to do it the hard way.
The Rabbitohs were asked to take on Cabramatta for a place in the final, accounting for the Two Blues 26-12 in a Nakia Davis-Welsh and Taleena Simon masterclass. It was the loss to Mounties, however, which provided the women from Redfern the wake-up call they needed.
“One hundred per cent (we were complacent),” star South Sydney five-eighth Lavina O’Mealey told NSWRL.com.au. “I was really worried about that minor premiership and coming first the whole year ‘round.
“We were giving teams hidings during the season and complacency started creeping into the side. The girls were losing hunger for it and just thought they could walk in and beat teams the way we were.
“Coming into the back end of the season you can’t do stuff like that, you can’t rest on your laurels. I think we went in like that against Mounties and the results showed.”
Hunger won’t be an issue when the two sides meet again in a blockbuster final at ANZ Stadium on Friday night – but there are more than a few lessons to be learned by the Rabbitohs from the last encounter.
“From the jump, Mounties came out of the blocks firing and we just couldn’t contain it,” O’Mealey added. “Their forwards just laid the platform for their hooker and their halves to run the show and we couldn’t recover from that first try. It got a little bit frantic.
“We couldn’t recover, but we took that as a lesson – and we’re raring to go on Friday night.”
An added subplot to the highly-anticipated clash is the fact that O’Mealey – and a number of her Rabbitohs’ teammates – will be trying to defeat one player who they will soon line up alongside for the Sydney Roosters in the NRL Holden Women’s Premiership. NSW and Jillaroos lock Simaima Taufa will line up for Mounties on Friday night, less than 24 hours before the Roosters team continues its preparations on Saturday.
“We feel confident, although we’re up against probably the best player in the world at the moment in Simaima Taufa,” O’Mealey said. “We’ve got to have a lot of numbers around a player like that and we can’t be complacent like we were in the last game against Mounties.
“She’s so professional and her professionalism speaks for itself on the field. You don’t like to play against those types of players and I can’t wait until the grand final’s over and we can play side by side again.
“We play the grand final on Friday night and we’ve got to back up the next day and come together on Saturday for a Roosters training. We’ll be enemies on Friday night and best mates the next day!”
The decider will kick-off at 5:30pm at ANZ Stadium prior to the Rabbitohs’ and Roosters’ NRL clash, with tickets still available for the fixture. The match will also be live streamed, with commentators Jamie Soward, Ruan Sims and Corban McGregor calling the action on NSWRL.com.au and the NSWRL Facebook Page.