South Sydney coach Joe O’Callaghan is using valuable intel to ready his premiership team from The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup to face Queensland’s Hostplus Cup winners Brisbane Tigers in State Championship Final on Sunday at Sydney’s Accor Stadium.
Both O’Callaghan and Rabbitohs NRL coach Jason Demetriou have cut their teeth in Rugby League’s second-tier competition in both Queensland and NSW.
“I actually spent a couple of years at the Tigers, so I know the culture of the joint,” O’Callaghan told nswrl.com.au.
“I was on staff in 2014 when we won the State Championship with the Northern Pride … obviously ‘JD’ (Demetriou) was the head coach, and I was his assistant.
“Jason was head coach when the Illawarra Cutters won it (NRL State Championship) as well (2016) so we’ve had a bit of a chat about Sunday in terms of how to approach the week and prepare them.”
The Rabbitohs broke a 40-year drought when they beat the North Sydney Bears 22-18 in last week’s NSW Cup Grand Final at CommBank Stadium.
“You need them to celebrate what they achieved last weekend and then you’ve got to slowly build them back up again. It’s hard to play two grand finals in a week,” O’Callaghan said.
Stats from last week show strength in defending their line but a poor completion rate (68%) with just 24 from 35 sets ending successfully.
“I asked the boys during the week what they’d like to do better and they raised the fact it was probably one of their worst games in attack,” he said.
“I was pleased to hear them say that as I felt the same. Against the Bears we won it on defence so there’s plenty of room for improvement.”
The only change is the injured Ben Lovett (leg) making way for Leonard Skelton on the bench.
The Rabbitohs boast six players with NRL pedigree in their ranks: fullback Blake Taaffe – who set up the match-winning try against the Bears – winger Tyrone Munro, halfback Dean Hawkins – NSWRL’s Player of the Year for The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup – forwards Shaq Mitchell, Peter Mamouzelos, and Yileen Gordon.
The Tigers are one of the two feeder clubs for Melbourne Storm.
“You can see that Melbourne-like flavour to them the way they grind and hang in games,” O’Callaghan said.
“I know Matt Church their head coach. I also coached up in Queensland Cup so I have a lot of respect for him.
“They’ll be coming to make a real a real statement for their competition and their club.
“I’ve prepped the boys on that. If they thought the Bears had a lot to play for (no premiership since 1993) then these boys have a lot they want to say too.”
They also have the players to make a statement, including former NSW Under-19s player Jonah Pezet at halfback who’s played seven NRL games this year.
Other NRL players in the Tigers line-up include winger George Jennings, five-eighth Ryley Jacks, centres Kane Bradley and Marion Seve, along with forwards Jordan Grant and Leivaha Pulu.
O’Callaghan has watched Tigers last few games, as well as studying the Hostplus Cup Grand Final where they won 22-18 against the Burleigh Bears.
“They’re like us to the extent they’ve got a couple of journeymen and some young and exciting guys as well,” O’Callaghan said.
“Should be a cracking match.”